Police padded up this month for a special cricket game with Christchurch’s Muslim community to remember the victims of the March 15 terror attacks.
A Christchurch Muslim team took the pitch against an Australian Federal Police (AFP) team in a friendly game on Sunday February 9, while local police looked on.
Several AFP members came to New Zealand to assist Police after the mosque shootings at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre. The force’s specialties include victim identification work and forensics.
The cricket concept soon grew legs (but thankfully not before wicket) and became something much bigger – a three-match series with the visitors also taking on teams from Christchurch and Southern District Police.
New South Wales Cricket and the Sydney Thunder Big Bash team flew in players Hameed Kherkhah and Nazir Shinwari and the pair, of Afghan heritage, ran coaching clinics at high schools Shirley Boys and Hagley Community College. They also visited the local Muslim community to meet friends.
Canterbury Cricket held coaching clinics for Muslim youth and junior members of the Marist Harewood cricket club.
Watching from the sidelines was Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price.
“Sport brings people together,” he says. “A cricket match provides a source of camaraderie and fun in what will be very sombre year for Canterbury.”
When the idea of a week-long South Island cricket tour germinated, the AFP wanted to involve the Christchurch Muslim community.
Two games in Christchurch were followed by one in Queenstown, which AFP Acting Commander Brett James describes as a better pitch than that at Sydney Cricket Ground – where he’s swung the bat.
“Queenstown’s the best I’ve ever played on,” he says. “But seriously, it is good to be able to reconnect with the people of this community for a friendly game of cricket. It has meant a lot to the staff participating.”
Brett was also presented with a cheque for $2441 for Aussie police staff affected by bushfires, raised by serving and former New Zealand Police staff.
Imam Gamal Fouda represented the Masjid Al Noor at the game. Imam Abdul Lateef from the Linwood Islamic Centre also attended.
“You can’t police in a community where there is no close bond or respect from both sides – it’s just not possible,” says Constable Glenn Dawson, of Christchurch Airport Police, who organised the New Zealand end of the tour.
“Sporting events like this help with those ties to the community, so I was pleased to help the AFP team organise this special series.”
The Muslim team won the cricket trophy, chasing down the AFP’s 143 from their 20 overs thanks to an unbeaten 77 from man-of-the-match Muhammad Ali.
Muhammed won a bat signed by the Bangladesh World Cup team, some of whom had been near the Masjid Al Noor on 15 March.
Big thanks to Police Sport for their catering contribution, former New Zealand Police Detective Paul Johannsen, Constable Glenn Dawson, and Acting Commander Brett James from the AFP.
- The first anniversary of the attacks will be marked with a commemorative event in Hagley Park, Christchurch, on 15 March.
- Thursday 6 Feb, AFP v Christchurch Police: Christchurch win 281 off 40 overs, AFP all out 107.
- Sunday 9 Feb, AFP v Christchurch Muslim Community Team (Redwood Park, Christchurch): T20 trophy match - AFP 144 for 7 off 20 overs, Muslim community team win in 19th over, 145 for 2, Muhammed Ali not out 77 and man of the match. Also social T20 played.
- Tuesday 12 Feb, AFP v Southern Police (Queenstown Events Centre): Southern - 185 off 35 overs, AFP win 189 for 5 in 30 overs.