Lord's Long Room hosts ground-breaking Ramadan Iftar

Lead event organiser, Tameena Hussain, who manages the IT Helpdesk at the ECB, gives her account of the night and the events that led up to it.

"Sat at my desk at Lord’s this week, helping people with their computer issues, just a stone’s throw from where the Iftar took place, and I can’t believe we pulled it off…

"Thursday 21 April 2022 felt like a significant day for the ECB, and the wider cricket fraternity. The Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground hosted its first ever Ramadan Iftar, and as the call to prayer reverberated around this prestigious location, I realised the magnitude of the event.

"In the backdrop of the race issues cricket has faced in the past few months, it felt even more important, but this was something I knew I wanted to do back in 2019 when I first joined the ECB. But my ambition was delayed by the Men’s Cricket World Cup taking place and then Covid hit. It was only in February 2022 that I decided to start making the dream a reality and set the ball rolling with an internal email asking if it would be possible to bring this vision to life. As I pressed send, I thought to myself what have I done?! As I set my head down on the pillow that night I asked myself could this really happen?’

"I was naturally delighted to get the green light and have the backing of the senior team at ECB, but I think I may have underestimated how consuming the planning and preparation would be! I knew we didn’t have much time, so I spent all my non-working hours trying to get everything in place.

"But I wasn’t alone, as soon as I asked a few colleagues to help, they were only too happy to be involved. We all wanted the same outcome, to make it a success whilst sharing our faith with others. Every last tiny detail was considered in order to give guests an unforgettable experience and one particular highlight of this is that we were lucky enough to get the players’ dressing rooms as prayer space. I didn’t hesitate for one second to assign the prestigious home dressing room to the women – you might wonder why? Well, not every Mosque has a prayer space for women and if they do, its often less than desirable, so this was my homage to them.  

"This event meant so much to me personally and the values I hold were at the heart of the planning process, ensuring we had inclusion running through every aspect of the occasion.

"Our host for the evening was Test Match Special’s Aatif Nawaz who did a fantastic job of guiding the room through the experience. Joining him up on stage were ECB spokespeople Tom Harrison (CEO) and Kate Miller (Chief Diversity and Communications Officer) who both reflected on the importance of hosting this event at this point. There was also a performance by spoken word artist Aminah Rahman and the call to prayer rendered by Hassen Rasool, which created such unforgettable moments on this special night.

"A number of past and present elite players were in attendance, including Graham Gooch, Lydia Greenway and Tammy Beaumont, and a section of the night was dedicated to a Q&A on the stage featuring Eoin Morgan (England Men’s white-ball Captain), Abtaha Maqsood (Scotland Women’s team, Birmingham Phoenix and Sunrisers) and Moazzam Rashid (England Men’s Deaf Team).

"Eoin will always be a highlight of any panel he’s featured on and he was truly inspirational speaking with passion and sincerity about how diversity has strengthened the England Men’s team. He talked eloquently about how they have benefited from having open discussions in the dressing room about faith and religious rituals such as fasting at Ramadan. Muslim players like Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have had a profound impact on the team, citing the calming effect of Adil’s famous quote: “Allah is with us bro, we got this” from the 2019 World Cup Final. It is no wonder the Men’s white-ball team is so strong under his stellar leadership and he undeniably gained a new set of fans that evening.

"You will more than likely also know Abtaha by now, a young Muslim female cricketer playing for her country and in The Hundred’s inaugural women’s competition. Wearing a hijab while bowling fans of the game over, she is breaking barriers and proving to be a fine role model for young Muslim girls looking to get into the game. As well as providing valuable insight into her life in cricket during Ramadan, she also spoke about the need for more events such as this one to encourage greater understanding across different faiths and communities.

"But it was Moazzam that I feel really stole the show, and with the help of his interpreter, Sula Gleeson, delivered one of the most significant moments of the evening; giving everyone insight into what it’s like to be a deaf, Muslim cricketer and highlighting the importance of intersectional consideration when seeking to truly practice what we preach regarding equity, diversity and inclusion.

Speakers gather at Lord's Cricket Ground before Iftar

"Some would think I’d be able to relax and enjoy the evening when it was in full flow, and don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but as lead organiser, it’s so hard to relax. You have to be on your toes all the time - my table joked they needed to pin me down so I’d eat the lovely meal that had been prepared (I think I managed five mouthfuls!) I can’t complain though, the output was perfect, so the effort was all worth it. But I do have a new-found level of respect for anyone that works in events!

"The response we’ve had from everyone on the night and post event on social media has been mind-blowing and overwhelming – I spent much of the following weekend on the phone responding and talking to people about it. I can’t believe the buzz that has been generated and as someone said to me, you might not feel the impact now or even next month but undoubtedly, you have done something that you will notice in a year’s time and beyond – and I really hope so.

"The Iftar wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing organising team at the ECB - Ikra, Sifaya, Karen, Amal and Sabah. They helped bring my vision to life, while keeping their day jobs running, and have been wonderful supporting me. I’m so proud of what we pulled off together as a team.

"For me, and most people that work in this game, we know the power of sport. It’s why we do what we do. I feel that this event was a true representation of how cricket can connect communities and improve lives and an example of everything this game should and can be."