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National Flags

Fourteen years ago, the World Class Player tournament started with only nine teams and four days to find a victor. Now, the contest brings thousands of players from across the country to make up approximately 70 teams that compete in one of Saskatchewan's largest indoor soccer tournaments.

One family in Regina are sending all five brothers to the pitch. The Azizi’s are originally from Afghanistan but they will march ahead under different flags and divisions, because the competition does not restrict an individual from playing for another country if the team has already met the heritage requirement.

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Meagan Johnson isn’t your typical Zamboni driver. First of all, she’s only 20 years old. Secondly, she’s, well… female.

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Regina athlete Anna Schneider holds up her gold medal from the 2017 CPU Powerlifting and Bench Press Nationals.

When Anna Schneider began her fitness journey she had no idea she was starting an adventure that would lead her to the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus.

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Sanam Iftikhar, holding a cricket bat, is a member of Titans Divas Women's Cricket Team, excited to represent Saskatchewan in the upcoming provincial tournament in Alberta. Photo by Madina Azizi.

Saskatchewan’s Women’s Cricket Team is taking part in the provincial tournament in Alberta this year, representing Saskatchewan for the first time.

“From not being able to play cricket at all to now being able to represent Saskatchewan at a provincial level is so amazing and exciting,” said 28-year-old Sanam Iftikhar who came to Saskatchewan from Pakistan in 2017 to do her Masters in Electronics Systems Engineering.

Cricket first made its appearance in Saskatchewan back in 1977 when the Saskatchewan Cricket Association (SCA) was established. Although the sport did not gain much interest in its early days, cricket is finally becoming popular. In 2010 there were only 16 cricket teams in the province; now there are over 50 teams.

However, cricket continues to be dominated by men and boys.

Iftikhar recalls not being allowed to play cricket when she was a teenager in Pakistan.

“I used to play cricket back home as a child--when I was 10 years old,” said Iftikhar. “But you don’t get too many opportunities to play [in Pakistan] because of the culture and the circumstances that you have. Women can not go out and play.”

Although the Saskatchewan Cricket Association was established more than 40 years ago, it wasn’t until April 2017 that a women’s team was formed by Titans Sports and Social Club.

"I have a huge passion for cricket," said Salman Khan, founder of Titans Sports and Social Club and a newly elected director of SCA. "I grew up with sisters and every time I played cricket I asked them to be a part of it and they enjoyed the sport as much as I did. But when I came to Saskatchewan, I saw women following the sport but not getting a chance to play it.”

So Khan joined forces with members of the Titans Club to create Saskatchewan’s first women's cricket team.

"We felt there was a bit of inequality, which we did bring to the SCA meeting," said Khan. "We felt that there's 51 teams representing men but none representing women and we wanted to change that landscape."

Khan says when he approached SCA for support in bringing his vision to life; his proposal met with resistance.

"When I brought it up in a SCA meeting, someone laughed at me and they said we can barely get a men’s team going and you're talking about a women’s program," said Khan. 

Khan says thus far the Titans Sports and Social Club members have spent around $5,000 of their own money, in addition to devoting time and effort, to create and maintain the women’s cricket team. 

Currently, the women’s cricket league consists of three teams and about 65 registered players, as young as 9 and as old as 54. Khan says in one year, the team has grown substantially.

"I think we have achieved more than what we bargained for in the first year," said Khan. 

Iftikhar never thought she would hold a cricket bat when she came to Saskatchewan but she was thrilled when the opportunity came. She joined the Women’s Cricket Team the moment it was founded.

“There’s something that you call being happy from your inner soul,” said Iftikhar, who now plays for Titans Divas. “That’s how I felt being able to play my favorite hobby and sport here. I am so happy to see that somebody is doing something for women out there who want to participate in sports.”

Iftikhar says the love for cricket unites women of all ages, backgrounds and professions.  

“Women from every culture, every community, every background and even from different age groups come together to play cricket,” said Iftikhar. “We have girls who are in high school, married women and women with kids whose love for the game brings them to the cricket ground.”

Iftikhar's team practices every week, developing their skills and teamwork as they get ready for provincials, which will be held in Alberta sometime this year.   

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Crokicurl ice pad in Victoria Park.

It's a normal weekday in Victoria Park. People are hustling and bustling, in their own world rushing to get to the daily grind of work. Some walk their dogs, take a stroll during the sunset or lace up their skates for a spin on the rink. Usually, the park is a place where Regina citizens pass by, but today in the middle of their path, sits an oddly shaped ice pad.

And it's going to get stranger. In the next week expect to see a few Roughriders playing a sport that is not their own.

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