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Afghan-Pakistan match a break from war


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The game has a limited following in the capital Kabul but a strong following mainly in the south and east of the country, near the Pakistan border. -Photo by AFP

KABUL: Excitement was building in cricket-loving parts of Afghanistan ahead of their historic one-day international against Pakistan in Sharjah on Friday – even among Taliban insurgents.

“I am personally a fan of cricket, I will follow this match closely,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP.

Asked which side he would support, given reported backing for the insurgents from within Pakistan, he replied: “I pray that Afghans come out as winners.”

Mujahid, who usually speaks to the media on his mobile phone about the state of the war, made the point that he was speaking in his personal capacity, not on behalf of the Taliban.

Afghanistan have played 18 one-day internationals since gaining status in 2009 but all their matches were against associate and affiliate teams Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, Kenya and Scotland.

Now they face their first game against their neighbour, one of the world's great cricketing nations.

Friday's match in Sharjah Stadium is fitting because most of the Afghan players learnt the game in Pakistan while staying as refugees after the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979.

The game has a limited following in the capital Kabul but a strong following mainly in the south and east of the country, near the Pakistan border.

“Everybody loves cricket here,” said Masoom, the owner of TV and satellite dish store in the southern provincial capital of Kandahar.

“I have sold a dozen dish sets in recent days because people are concerned the local TVs will not have a live broadcast.”

“Whenever there is a cricket match here, people all forget about war, poverty or other miseries,” said a customer who gave his name as Sami.

“Everybody looks so happy that you'd think there is no war in this country.”

In the eastern city of Jalalabad, cricket fan Sedaqat Ghorzang said Friday would be an important day for all Afghans.

“We want to forget about war and watch this interesting match, we will win inshallah (God willing).”Afghanistan gained a notable foot up on the world cricket stage by finishing fifth in the 2011 World Cup qualifiers which earned them the right to play one-day internationals.

Afghanistan, one of the 59 associate members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), are also the title holders of the Inter-Continental Cup meant for the Associate nations.

The ICC, which contributes approximately $700,000 a year to help Afghanistan's development in cricket, has shown great delight in their progress, terming it as “a success story in cricket”.

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Comments (14) Closed

M. Asghar Feb 10, 2012 06:20pm
What a good way to bring the people of the two countries closer together away from the toxicity blown in from the exteriour!
Rashid Khan Feb 10, 2012 06:29pm
It's good to see that Afghanistan had started taking cricket seriously , and the day not far when we will see Afghanistan cricket team playing with other international teams, my best wishes are with team Afghanistan.
SEA Peace Lover Feb 10, 2012 08:28pm
Awesome!! Amazing to see Afghan Cricket team play at international level & scorre 195 against a top team!!! Very inspiring, hope this brings cheer to people of Afghanistan!!!
Indusonian Feb 10, 2012 09:34pm
We both are brotherly nations and we should involve in more activities together.
Farhan javed Feb 11, 2012 02:56am
Today we won the match but Afghan team played well. My best wishes for this new comer.
Asif Naim Feb 11, 2012 07:33am
Great effort from the Afghans. They really surprised Pakistan. Ajmal's face after being hit for a six in a reverse sweep was priceless. It took our experienced batsmen to steer Pakistan away from an embarrassing loss to an easy win. But a very entertaining effort from the Afghans. They certainly deserve more games with the top teams. Good luck to them in the future.
Miakhel Feb 11, 2012 10:40am
I am very happy and satisfied from the yesterday performance of Afghan team who showed the world that Afghans are peace loving people and have the capacity if given a chance. Their performance indicates that a lot improvement has been brought in their Cricket skill and one can easily infer that this team has a very bright future if they do not loose the rhythm and momentum gained and have lesson learned from this ODI. Wish them all the best!
Ali Khan Feb 11, 2012 02:32pm
Folks yesterday was great day for Afghanistan. I was amazed when Taliban Spokesman rang a Journalist in Pakistan and said he will watch the whole game and pray for the Team's success. Pakistan has to be given a lot of credit for this.After sheltering Afghans for decades in Pakistan, they allowed Afghan team to regularly participate as a team in their first class cricket every year,for which Afghans owe Pakistan a Big Thank You. And Yesterday Pakistan played with their full strength,giving Afghans an oppurtunity to show the world their talent.They could have played with a B team but no,this was a big sign of respect to Afghans as a Nation. Many former Afghan cricket coaches including the current are former Pakistan International cricketers. They have no fear for their lives and they live in Afghanistan and travel abroad withthem.For that Thank you to Pakistan. India has yet to make such a gesture and allow their greats to play against Afghanistan. India is the most wealthy cricket playing nation. If India have such love for Afghans then they should take over from Pakistan now. The Big Question:Can cricket be used in Afghanistan for diplomacy,to bring parties to table.Pakistan and India have used cricket diplomacy in the Past.Why not use it in Afghanistan.
Ahmadzai Feb 11, 2012 06:14pm
this sort of games should be arranged in the near future it will help to build up friendship between the two nations
Rob Feb 11, 2012 09:36pm
It the taliban love the game so much, why did they try to kill and abduct the Sri Lankan team?
s khan Feb 11, 2012 10:14pm
it was always expected that pakistan would win easily but nevertheless it was great that the afghans gave pakistan a good game. Also in view of the time afghanistan has been playing and to where they are now it is an amazing achievement and as pakistanis and especially fellow pathans we are proud of our afghani brothers. I would rather that teh bungalis (tollerated but never liked by pakistanis) who have been playing for years and still rubbish were removed from test status and that position given to afghanistan - or some sort of competition for that 10th and maybe 9th place opened up for other affiliate countries well done afghanistan you made us all (pakistanis, afghans and iranians) proud
youshay Feb 12, 2012 02:17am
This day was a victory for both teams for both nations and for all the people on both sides. May this be the start for greater prosperity, brotherhood and peace.
Abdul Ghaffar Feb 12, 2012 04:56am
We are brothers.
Muhammad Farooq Feb 12, 2012 06:09am
what a relief. I was reading about Afghanistan and it was not related to war. pray we may get rid of the curse of war soon. Amen!