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Cricket Victory Stirs Afghan National Pride

Afghanistan’s cricket team took another step toward earning their nation a berth in the 2011 International Cricket Council World Cricket League World Cup with victory on the English island of Jersey against the home team. With their victory, the Afghan team qualified for the Division 4 tournament in October.

For those who do not closely follow cricket, the teams play tournaments in different divisions. If they finish in one of the top slots in their division, they can move on to a higher division. Afghanistan’s win in Division 5 qualifies them for the Division 4 tournament. The top two teams from Division 4 move on to Division 3, and the top two teams from that division earn places in the World Cup qualifier.

Cricket has been gaining popularity in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led intervention in 2001 eliminated the Taliban’s ban on sports. Further, many of Afghanistan’s returning refugees have spent the past decades in cricket-mad Pakistan. Clubs have been started throughout the country and the national team has been gaining prowess in regional tournaments. Afghan hopes were piqued in 2007 when their team tied for first in the ACC Twenty Cup, a pan-Asian cricket competition.

The Afghan team’s success comes at a difficult time for their country. Coalition troops continue to do battle with the Taliban while Western governments and organizations attempt to provide much-needed development a country long ravaged by war. The team’s success has provided uplifting news and to a degree restored national pride. “With this victory, the Afghan cricket team showed that despite the decades of war, and economic problems, Afghans can still be victorious,” declared Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The crowd seemed to share the president’s optimism as they danced to drums and horns, sang the country’s national anthem and shouted “Long live Afghanistan, Long live our cricket team!”

Calling his players the “pride of Afghanistan,” the team’s coach Taj Maluk Mangal assured fans that his team will make the world cup in 2011. If his predictions prove correct, celebrations like this will become all the more common in Afghanistan.

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