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Saturday July 20, 2024

Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win

By AFP
June 25, 2024
Afghan fans light firecrackers in Khost on June 23, 2024 to celebrate Afghanistans win against Australia at their ICC mens Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match.— AFP
Afghan fans light firecrackers in Khost on June 23, 2024 to celebrate Afghanistan's win against Australia at their ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match.— AFP

KABUL: Beleaguered Afghans were riding high Monday after a historic weekend T20 World Cup victory over Australia spread a rare mood of euphoria across the country.

“With every ball, every run, every boundary, every wicket, I wasn´t able to hold my emotions,” said university student Zamir Afghan in the capital Kabul. “It was very early morning, but I was jumping, screaming, I was not able to contain myself,” the 20-year-old told AFP. “I couldn´t stop my tears.”

Afghanistan seized on a poor Australian field performance to post 148-6 in their innings before bowling the 2021 champions out for 127 -- their first ever win over Australia. “Afghanistan as a nation has suffered a lot, such moments are rare for us,” said Afghan.

Whilst cricket is hugely popular in Afghanistan, the match over 11,000 kilometres (7,000 miles) away in Arnos Vale on the Caribbean island of St Vincent, took place around dawn local time. Though the last ball was bowled around 8:30 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday, many diehard fans had been awake to witness the win.

In eastern Khost city, around 1,000 raucous cricket fans gathered to bask in the glow of fireworks early on Sunday morning in half an hour of revelry swiftly broken up by Taliban security forces. An uncowed smaller crowd came together again at night, clapping as they lit off more pyrotechnics.

Since the Taliban took over in August 2021 and introduced an austere vision of Islam, scenes of public jubilation have been rare. “Such moments are special for everyone,” said 18-year-old fruit shop worker Saddam Saleh. “Beating the mighty Australia is not something small.”

The result bolsters Afghanistan´s chances of reaching the semi-finals in the competition co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, though they must first face Bangladesh on Tuesday. “In sports there are always ´ifs´ and ´buts´, but there is a very good chance for Afghanistan to qualify,” said 28-year-old Usman Ahmadzai.

“They even have the potential to be in the final and be champions -- we couldn´t wish for more.” Afghanistan has been isolated since the withdrawal of foreign forces and the collapse of the US-backed government, with diplomats wary of engaging with Taliban rulers.

The isolation has spilled into the world of sport. Cricket Australia has withdrawn from bilateral series because of the “deterioration in human rights” for women and girls in Afghanistan.