By Story by U.S. Army Spc. Jennifer Spradlin, 16th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentDecember 5, 2010
CAMP HOLLAND, Afghanistan - A crowd of Afghan National Army soldiers, Australian soldiers and civilian contractors gathered for an opening ceremony Nov. 27 to mark the completion of a cement pitch located in the heart of the ANA military compound.
Cricket (1), a hugely popular international game, has gained popularity in Afghanistan after the recent success of the male Afghan national cricket team in the 2010 Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China, where they won the silver medal.
During his deployment here, Capt. Pat Trainor, Force Support 3 garrison engineer, said that he had seen the ANA soldiers playing cricket on a dirt pitch and thought an upgrade might be the perfect way to give something back to them.
"I think sports are a universal language," said Trainor. "It's great that the ANA know and understand cricket, as do the Australians, and it's a great opportunity for the two nations to bond."
In charge of maintaining Australian infrastructure, Trainor was recently overseeing a winterization project to install cement footpaths throughout Camp Holland. He approached the civilian contractors with Gulf Leighton to see if they were interested in a project to improve the ANA pitch.
"Pat approached us with the idea of giving something back to the ANA and came up with the idea of doing a cricket pitch and we went for it," said Alasdair Golightli, Gulf Leighton construction manager. The supplies and manpower for the project were provided by Gulf Leighton at no cost to the ANA. The volunteers even provided new metal wickets, similar to goal posts, welded by hand and freshly painted.
Golightli said the response from the ANA throughout the process has been positive.
"They absolutely love it. The whole time we have been here constructing the pitch, they have been around giving us their opinions. The Afghans are pretty good cricketers," said Golightli.
The dedication ceremony for the new ANA pitch was attended by Brig. Gen. Zafar Khan, 4th Brigade commander, who personally thanked Capt. Trainor and the crew of Gulf Leighton for their efforts on behalf of his soldiers.
"I know that you are working hard, and that you play very good cricket. For that reason they made this pitch for you," said Gen. Zafar, addressing the ANA soldiers. "This is a very special gift for you from the Australians. Train hard and in a few days we will have a competition with the Australian unit."
After the brief ceremony, the practice began with the ANA soldiers, some wearing specialty sports jerseys, rotating through the different positions as the spectators watched and cheered each direct hit of the ball.
"I hope there will be some good test matches here and that one day there will be an international match between Afghanistan and Australia," said Trainor, standing just off the field of play. "I leave here in a week and it was good to finish up on a high and to give something to the Afghan people. Something that I hope will be here for a long time."
1. Cricket: An open-air game played on a large grass field with a bat and ball between teams of 11 players. The batsmen attempt to score runs by hitting the ball and running between the wickets.