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Brussels’ first indoor cricket facility opens in Anderlecht in bid to attract youth to sport ‘invented in Belgium’

Sint-Niklaas Institute cricket facility - Ans Persoons cabinet
15:01 30/04/2024

A school sports hall in Anderlecht has been specially adapted for indoor cricket training, providing the city with its first interior facility for the team sport.

Sint-Niklaas Institute’s new hall was inaugurated on Sunday with a special initiation session organised by Premium Cricket Club Brussels.

Up to now, cricketers have had to train at outdoor pitches and facilities just outside Brussels, such as the Royal British Cricket Club in Waterloo or the Cricket Vlaanderen grounds in Wemmel.

A popular sport in countries around the world, including Pakistan, India, Australia, England, South Africa and Bangladesh, cricket is attracting more fans in Belgium, and beyond expat communities.

"People from those communities in our capital therefore longed for good infrastructure," said Brussels state secretary for sport Ans Persoons (Vooruit.Brussels), who is also on the board of the Flemish Community Commission (VGC).

The facilities at the Sint-Niklaas Institute include nets for bowling and batting practice. Outdoor nets will also be installed this summer thanks to a €120,000 investment by the VGC. "This way you can play in the open air when the weather is good," added Persoons.

Cricket Vlaanderen financed the floor surface and equipment such as bats and balls. The federation will also run the after-school management of the hall.

The Sint-Niklaas Institute hopes the facility will boost the popularity of the sport, especially among youngsters. "By opening up this infrastructure, we hope to contribute to making this sport more widely known," said general director Hilde Devillé.


Attracting youth to future Olympic sport

The new training facility was welcomed by Nick Compton, president of Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles de Cricket and junior development officer at Belgian Cricket Federation.

“It’s great news for cricket development in Brussels,” he said. “There are eight clubs in Brussels and until now it has only been possible to practice with the softball.”

Compton anticipates the new nets will accelerate the development of young talented players in the city, especially as the sport is rapidly growing in Belgium.

“It was recognised in Flanders some years ago, and last year achieved recognition in the Wallonia-Brussels region,” added Compton. He pointed out that with cricket becoming an Olympic sport again at the 2028 games in Los Angeles, there was additional focus on developing young cricketers to represent Belgium.


This call to youth includes girls as well as boys. “Only last week, Belgium was recognised by the ICC for its initiative to develop women’s cricket in Belgium. The new nets in Brussels will really help us to get more young girls playing cricket,” said Compton.

Did cricket originate in Belgium?

At the official opening in Anderlecht, Persoons mentioned that cricket was actually invented in Belgium. Her comment referred to research that revealed the sport was brought to the UK by Flemish immigrants.

It is believed the region’s famous weavers introduced the game to England when they played it close to where they looked after their sheep, using shepherd's crooks as bats.


Various academics have studied a poem by John Skelton, written in 1533, which refers to these Flemish weavers as "kings of crekettes". A Flemish phrase 'met de krik ketsen' means to 'chase a ball with a curved stick. There are also mentions of ‘wickettes’.

Otherwise, Belgium already boasts a long association with the game. As a former chairman of the Royal Brussels Cricket Club in Lasne-Ohain, Compton is familiar with his sport’s historic links with the area and his native country.

“The first recorded game was played on the eve of the battle of Waterloo in the presence of the Duke of Wellington,” explained the Briton.

But he is also aware of the suspected origins dating from the Middle Ages. “Primitive cricket may not have been played by the same rules as today. Still, it was immensely popular in West Flanders and when textile workers emigrated to England, they introduced the English to cricket,” he said proudly.

Photo: (main image) ©Cabinet Ans Persoons; RBCC men’s team; RBCC women’s team; Wikipedia, first match of cricket played by members of the Royal Amateur Society on Hampton Court Green ©public domain


Written by Sarah Crew