How's that? Keralite priests and seminarians make up official cricket team of Vatican

The team is presently in England for a tournament which starts on June 28.
The official cricket team of Vatican.
The official cricket team of Vatican.

St. Peter’s Cricket Club, the official cricket team of Vatican, is making waves with its unique composition and aspirations.

The team, formed in 2014, has undergone a significant transformation. At present the team comprises entirely of Keralite priests and seminarians

Initially started as an ecumenical initiative with the Anglicans, the Vatican Cricket Team has expanded to play teams outside the religious sphere.

Inspired by Pope Francis, who in his first year championed the value of sport as a means of fostering dialogue, the club was formed with the aim of strengthening ties with countries and maintaining brotherhood through cricket.

Former team member Fr. Anil Ottakunel said that most members of the team are Indians. This stems from the fact that most of the priests and brothers in Rome are from India or the state of Kerala.

“There were years when it used to be 98 percent Malayalis and 1-2 from other countries,” he said.

At the time of his coming back to India he had participated in a four - match tournament in Malta.

On Friday, St Peter’s Cricket Club will mark a historic milestone as this team plays its first international match.

The competition titled Journey to the Light of Faith, will see the Vatican team competing against England at Wormsley Estate.

“It is a sort of an Evangelisation. It's also more about forming connections with people”, Fr. Jose Eettulli, present captain of the team, told the newindianexpress. com.

For Fr. Jose, who hails from Changanassery, it's an enriching experience. It is his seventh year in the team and he has been to Portugal, Kenya, Argentina and many more countries for tournaments. It is his third time in England and he said that they take the tournament seriously but it also serves a greater purpose.

“It is the first time we have an all Malayali team. We have always had mostly Indians in the team with two from England, one from Australia, one from Sri Lanka, three from Pakistan and one from Canada in different years.”

The team members during a prayer session.
The team members during a prayer session.

This demographic spread is due to the popularity of cricket in Asian countries and the prominent diversity in culture that is present among Asians. The players keep changing because most of the people who come here are seminarians who have come to study for a period of 3-5 years, said Fr. Jose Reechus, another teammate hailing from Trivandrum.

The practice sessions are the only time when these teammates get together, they are all in different universities or serving in different places.

The coach of the team is Dane Kirby, a former Australian district cricket team player.

"We are trained thoroughly," said Fr. Eettulli.

“We play County 2 level teams and we have a 70 percent winning rate”. This is not his first captaincy stint. He led the team during the 2019-2020 season as well.

According to him, even though they are all players on the ground, there is a sort of a priestly witness during playing. “Getting angry or frustrated during a sport is common and is accepted. But we try to take and deal with everything gently and with a smile", he said.

“The priest who is our team manager gave us all the advice that we have always kept close to us. He said that winning or losing is not important, playing with excellence is”.

Apart from the captain Fr. Jose Eetulli, the other members are Fr Nelson Puthuparampil (Kannur), Fr Jose Richus (Thiruvananthapuram), Fr Prince Augustine (Kottayam), Fr Abin Mathew (Pala), Fr Joji Kavunkal (Chalakudy), Fr Santo Thomas (Kannur), Fr Paulson Kochuthara (Kochi), Fr Ebin Illikal (Thrissur), Brother Ebin Jose (Idukki), Brother Jays Jamie (Kothamangalam) and Brother Ajay Poovanpuzha (Kannur).

The team is in England for the tournament till July 4th.

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