??? Afghan cricket knows no boundaries | NATO in Afghanistan


Over 9000 spectators poured through the gates
of the Kabul National Cricket Stadium to watch their heroes battle it out wicket by wicket
at the largest national tournament Afghanistan has ever seen. Players from the national team were chosen
as captains to lead five regional teams in a tense play off over six days. “Sport brings happiness in Afghanistan. It plays a role a very positive role especially
in sports in Afghanistan and the current situation, because we need peace, unity and stability. Sports can do a great job especially cricket
can do this job.” Afghan cricket has enjoyed continued growth
in the last 12 years, rising from the ashes of refugee camps in Pakistan to international
recognition. “You can see that cricket has dramatically
grown up here like it was not the national game — no one knew about it. If you go 15 years ago, there was no cricket
culture. Now you can see it because the boys are doing
well in the world stage and there’s a lot of fans here.” “Sometimes I’m thinking I’m in a dream because
5-6 years ago if you go back, there was nothing in Afghanistan, no cricket, no cricket grounds,
no academies. You can see now we have an international stadium
here and in Jalalabad as well.” The national success of the tournament brought
with it a double victory for Afghanistan as it was granted associate Membership of the
International Cricket Council. “Yesterday we got good news for all of Afghanistan,
we got ICC membership yesterday, so this is big news for us and I’m very happy for that
because our cricket is growing day by day.” The tournament attracted spectators from all
over the country, defying instability and ethnic and regional differences. “Every day there is news of bombing here and
there, something negative, and this is the only good thing coming to them in Kabul.” “You can see from every city people came:
from Kandahar, from Nangarhar, from Kabul from Logar. They are from different cities but they are
supporting the players, they are supporting the cricket and this is a good sign for the
country.” “I’m from Kunar Province and I’m coming here
just to see the cricket. I played cricket many times during university
and at school, I love to play cricket and I love to see cricket.” But while cricket is a source of public entertainment
and pride, it is also seen as having positive elements for the future of Afghanistan. “It’s getting a sports culture now rather
than a desperate culture. I personally think it’s playing a huge positive
role in Afghanistan itself. It’s bringing the youth towards sports rather
than going towards guns and other things and drugs and obviously this is the way the government
and ourselves, the cricket world, want to go.” No cricket match would be complete without
googlies and a dramatic finish but in this case it was a false finish. Just when Spin Ghar thought they had won,
there was controversy over the last hit and catch of the game, which would determine the
winner by one run or concluding in a draw. Replays showed that when the fielder stopped
the ball, his foot was over the boundary line, thus resulting in a tie. With a decisive Super Over play off, Spin
Ghar did go on to win the match, ending the first, but hopefully not the last, tournament
of this size in Afghanistan. The several thousand spectators here today
are testament to the popularity of cricket in Afghanistan. The sport has come a long way in the last
few years and with competitions like today and with the national team competing on the
world stage, cricket is helping to unite Afghanistan. This is Lalage Snow, in Kabul for the NATOChannel.

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