Freddie Flintoff says he was bullied at school ‘like Billy Elliot’ for playing cricket

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Cricket legend Freddie Flintoff has told how he was bullied by children at school for playing the sport ahead of a new documentary

Freddie Flintoff stars in documentary showing him building a cricket team made up of kids who have never played the game before

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.”







Freddie Flintoff celebrates while playing for England in 2005
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Image:

AFP/Getty Images)


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.







Freddie Flintoff (right) also presents Top Gear with Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris
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BBC/Lee Brimble)


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.







Holly Willoughby and Freddie Flintoff present The Games on ITV
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ITV)


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.

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