The Afghanistan team has already celebrated four World Cup victories in India in recent weeks, including victories over cricketing superpowers England and Pakistan. This is special, because after the Taliban seized power two years ago, it was still questionable whether sanctions should be imposed on the team due to the ban on women’s cricket under the new strict Islamic regime.
Early this year, Australia withdrew from an international match against Afghanistan for this reason. But the International Cricket Council (ICC) said in October that the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and the players would not be punished “for following the laws of their country”.
When the Taliban first seized power in Afghanistan in 1996, sports were strictly prohibited, even for men. But in 2000 they changed their minds; Cricket was legalized as an exception. The sport has become popular among Afghan refugees in Pakistan, where the first Afghan cricket federation was established in 1995.
Cricket clothing, which completely covers players’ legs, and minimal contact between players has helped the Taliban accept the sport as a potential way to create greater international recognition. In 2001, Afghanistan, still under Taliban rule, joined the ICC as an associate member.
“Important players receive gifts”
Even after the 2001 US invasion, cricket remained popular among Taliban fighters, who began promoting it in areas where they had slowly regained power. “Cricket is stronger in areas where the Taliban are stronger,” cricket journalist Tim Wigmore wrote in the book. The second eleventh From 2015. “Key players are known to have received gifts from people associated with the Taliban.”
The fact that Afghanistan gained full membership in 2017 was also controversial, because the country did not meet all the conditions. There was no infrastructure for men, let alone a program to develop women’s cricket.
The women’s team, founded in 2020, fled the country after the takeover in 2021. The men’s team has found a new home in Dubai, where it is supported with visas and training facilities. Because in Afghanistan it is still very limited.
From 2015 until the outbreak of the pandemic, India was home to Afghan cricketers. They trained and played home matches in Noida, a city east of Delhi. This changed when players’ residency visas were canceled after the Taliban took power. Most of the Afghan players are now living in their country again. Only star players Rashid Khan and Mohamed Nabi live permanently in Dubai.
Hunger and earthquakes
In Afghanistan, they are seen as heroes. In the diaspora, there are also Afghans who refuse to celebrate their cricket victories. They consider it a “Taliban sport.” Others choose to wave the old Afghan flag.
But overall, the team’s achievements are seen as a rare link between the Taliban regime and its supporters – the expatriates who fled them and ordinary Afghans at home, who can use support amid famine and earthquakes.
It remained calm after the victory over England, the current world champion. But after the victory over Pakistan, the sound of car horns, fireworks and gunfire erupted in the streets of Kabul.
The match will be held on Friday in the Indian city of Lucknow. The Netherlands have won two matches so far, against leaders South Africa and Bangladesh. The Dutch cricketers still have a chance to reach the quarter-finals.
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