KABUL: A near-full home turned out to observe Afghanistan’s prime cricketers play in a trial match Friday (Sep 3), with Taliban and Afghan flags waving aspect by aspect in what sports activities officers referred to as a present of nationwide unity.
It was the primary match for the reason that Taliban swept to energy on Aug 15, leaving organisers of sports activities and cultural occasions questioning what’s now acceptable underneath the hardline Islamists’ rule.
The 2 sides – referred to as Peace Defenders and Peace Heroes – featured many members of the Afghan nationwide staff, presently getting ready for the Twenty20 World Cup to be performed in UAE and Oman from Oct 17.
“It’s nice to be right here and watch cricket,” a Taliban commander named Hamza advised AFP on the stadium in Kabul, an American M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder.
He was in control of a contingent of Taliban fighters retaining guard among the many crowd – some watching the sport extra intently than the spectators.
“I’m a participant myself,” stated Hamza. “An all-rounder.”
The return of the Taliban has sparked widespread concern in Afghanistan and within the worldwide group, reviving reminiscences of their first stint in energy from 1996 to 2001, once they imposed a harsh model of Islamic legislation.
That regime banned most types of leisure – together with many sports activities – and stadiums doubled as public execution venues.
Sports activities the Taliban did enable have been strictly managed, and have been just for males to play or watch.
Actually there have been no girls among the many crowd of round 4,000 on Friday, however there was loads of enthusiasm because the groups performed a Twenty20 match – the shortest model of the sport – scheduled to complete in time for Friday prayers, crucial of the week.
Cricket was barely identified in Afghanistan till the early 2000s, and its explosive rise in recognition is linked with battle – the game was picked up in Pakistan by Afghan refugees who then seeded it of their residence nation.
The nationwide staff has loved a meteoric rise on the worldwide scene since then, gaining coveted Take a look at standing in 2017 and now rating among the many prime 10 sides on this planet within the one-day and Twenty20 codecs.
Within the final 20 years, it has emerged as a robust image of nationwide unity in a rustic riven by civil warfare and ethnic battle.
On Friday, followers waved Afghan and Taliban flags aspect by aspect, whereas “Baba cricket” – an aged superfan dressed head to toe in nationwide colors – was ushered to a first-rate spot within the stand.
Entry was free for spectators on Friday, though everybody was patted down by Taliban guards as they entered the stadium close to Chaman Uzuri – a Kabul neighbourhood dominated by Pashtuns, who make up a majority of Taliban fighters.
Though many Kabul residents say safety has improved within the weeks for the reason that authorities fell, the Taliban are nonetheless on alert following the Islamic State suicide bomb assault on the airport final week that killed greater than 100 folks — together with 13 American troops as they wrapped up a chaotic withdrawal.
A beaming Hamid Shinwari, CEO of the Afghan Cricket Board, advised AFP the show of flags on the match – which Peace Defenders received by 62 runs – was a optimistic signal for the nation.
“It’s unity,” he stated, including that talks with Taliban officers signalled a vivid future for the game.
He wouldn’t be drawn, nonetheless, on the destiny of the ladies’s staff, with varied media studies saying many members had already fled the nation or have been in hiding – fearful for his or her future underneath the brand new regime.
“Now we have a gaggle on WhatsApp and each evening we’re speaking about our issues and sharing plans about what we should always do,” one member of the staff advised the BBC this week.
“We’re all hopeless.”