Cricket legend Freddie Flintoff has told how he was bullied by children at school for playing the sport ahead of a new documentary
Image: BBC/South Shore/Nick Eagle)
Freddie Flintoff says the bullying he went through for playing cricket was worse than what Billy Elliot went through for starting ballet.
The former England all-rounder added that more should be done to encourage children from all walks of life to play the game.
Comparing himself to Billy, a fictional working-class boy who has to fight to achieve his dream, Freddie said: “At both schools I went to, cricket just wasn’t on the radar.
“I had so much stick playing cricket, even being bullied, it was almost like Billy Elliot – except he had an easier time being a ballet dancer.”
He took up a televised boxing challenge in 2012 to deal with his frustration at being bullied but not responding. He previously said: “I had a very difficult time at school. I wanted to play cricket and I was often knocked down because of it.
“I wanted to fight back but I couldn’t.
“So now I want to put that side of my life to bed a bit.”
Freddie, 44, who went to state schools, has returned to his hometown of Preston, Lancs, for a new documentary series showing him putting together a cricket team made up of kids who have never played cricket game before.
At first, most of them say it’s “boring”, “too slow” and “fancy”. Freddie said: “When you look at the England squad, when we started this process a year ago it was 60/40 state school for state school children. But only 7% of children go to private school. This makes him elitist.
Of the England squad chosen for the test match against New Zealand which ended yesterday, there was a 50/50 split between state and state school.
Freddie, who was encouraged to play the game by his cricket-mad father, struggled to fit in during the early years.
He told Radio Times: “I had my bat which I bought for £21.50 and my aunt Joan bought my pads from Hamleys toy store.
“You’re playing against all these private school kids who have all the necessary equipment. I took this strange pleasure in beating them.
The Ashes hero, who also played for Lancashire, says the new show is a “passion project” for which he takes no charge. He added: “When I look back on my life, I think if I hadn’t played cricket, what would I have done? Who would I be?
“I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time.”
TV presenter Freddie invested £25,000 of his own money and pledged a further £25,000 for the clubhouse refurbishment.
One of the boys who shows up is Adnan, an Afghan asylum seeker. Freddie said: “He hits six and the guys hug him and you think, ‘That’s the power of the sport. That’s what cricket can do.
Freddie Flintoff’s Field of Dreams begins Tuesday July 5 at 8 p.m. on BBC1.