Ace Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
FORMER director of Afghanistan women’s cricket Tuba Sangar has urged the international cricket community to support the country’s men’s team by not boycotting their matches if the Taliban ban its women from playing.
Sangar, who fled Afghanistan for Canada shortly after the hardline Islamist group returned to power in Kabul last month, said sports sanctions would hurt cricket at the grassroots in Afghanistan, including for women and girls.
“It’s not a good idea to boycott the male team. They did a lot for Afghanistan — they introduced Afghanistan to the world in a positive way,” Sangar told AFP on Tuesday (14).
“If we don’t have a male team any more, there would be no hope for cricket overall,” the 28-year-old Sangar, who was the director of women’s cricket at the Afghanistan Cricket Board from 2014-2020, said.
Australia have threatened to cancel a historic first Test with Afghanistan which is set to take place in November after a senior Taliban official said on television that it was “not necessary” for women to play.
The Taliban banned most forms of entertainment during their first stint in power which came to end with the US-led invasion in October 2001. Many sports were stopped and stadiums were used as venues for executing people.
Women were completely banned from the sporting arena.
However, the country saw sports becoming immensely popular over the past few decades when the Taliban were out of power. Afghanistan emerged as a promising cricketing side in international cricket and also made their debut in Tests.
The Taliban, on their return, have said that they do not mind the men playing cricket, pulling together a game in Kabul shortly after the foreign forces withdrew. But on the question of women’s taking part in sports, there seems to be less hope. On Tuesday, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, the country’s new director general of sports, refused to reply when asked whether women will be allowed to play sports, leaving it to the top Taliban leaders to decide.
Banning the sportswomen could jeopardise Afghanistan’s Test future as under the rules of the International Cricket Council, nations must also have an active women’s team.
The Afghanistan team is also set to take part in the T20 World Cup set to take place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman in October and November.
Last week, the Afghanistan Cricket Board appealed to Australia not to punish its men’s team, saying it was “powerless to change the culture and religious environment of Afghanistan”.
Afghanistan national girls’ football team flees to Pakistan
Meanwhile, members of Afghanistan’s national girls’ football team fled across the border into Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday (15), exactly a month after the Taliban stormed back to power.
They, along with their coaches and families, had tried to exit Afghanistan last month itself but a couple of deadly bomb attacks at the Kabul airport left them stranded, one source told AFP.
They will stay in Pakistan before reportedly moving to another country.
The girls, who have played for the Under-14, U-16 and U-18 teams, crossed the Pakistan border dressed in burqas and later changed them into headscarves, Sardar Naveed Haider, a London-based ambassador for global development NGO Football for Peace, told the news outlet.