• Afghan refugee cricketer scoops second major award

Afghan refugee cricketer scoops second major award

31 December 2012

2012 was a triumphant year for Afghan refugee cricketer Matiullah Haidar.

In December, the 20 year old won the prestigious Spirit of London “Achievement in Sports” award for his outstanding contribution to sport in the city.

Matiullah, who arrived in the UK alone five years, received his trophy from Zoe Smith of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic team in front of an audience of 10,000 people.

In the summer, Matiullah won the inaugural Generation Ali Beyond Sport Award, which recognises service, leadership and action in the community.  That award was presented by two of the world’s biggest sporting icons, David Beckham and Muhammad Ali.

Matiullah has worked tirelessly with the Refugee Cricket Project, set up by the charity Cricket for Change in partnership with the British Refugee Council.  The project brings together young refugees who are living alone, teaching them cricket skills and helping them learn English.  

Speaking to BAAG earlier this year, Danny Baker, Cricket for Change's Training Manager, said Matiullah’s contribution goes far beyond cricket coaching.  He said the young man also offers the other young refugees more general support, including translating official documents for them.  He described Matiullah as being  “like a surrogate big brother to eighty people”.

After winning his latest award, Matiullah said “Five years ago I had just left Afghanistan.  I didn’t know where I was going or whether I would survive the journey. I  want to thank the Refugee Council and Cricket for Change for all their support.  It’s good to be able to give something back to other people who are struggling.”

Matiullah is already a qualified cricket coach. He is currently going to college and hopes to become a doctor.