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Afghan cricket, champion of hearts

LETTER FROM NEW DELHI

The Cricket World Cup is not over yet Afghanistan has already won all hearts. The team, made up of very young players, aimed to qualify for the semi-finals of this competition, which takes place in India from October 5 to November 19. If the sporting objective was ultimately not achieved, it managed to do much more: captivate those who have little interest in this sport, in the land of cricket and beyond. Halfway through the tournament, followed by millions of fans around the world, the Blue Tigers had achieved the feat of beating England, the reigning champion, but also Pakistan, threatening to put the two cricket giants out of the running . Then they triumphed again over Sri Lanka on October 30.

“Cricket is the only unifying force in the most difficult times for Afghans, estimates Farid Mamundzay, Afghan ambassador to New Delhi. In a gloomy geopolitical landscape, where prospects for a better future seem few and far between, international cricket victories offer a glimmer of hope to the youth. »

From Kabul to New Delhi via the United States, the Afghan team thrilled all its compatriots, those exiled since the Taliban took power in August 2021, as well as those who remained in the country. After their victory against neighboring Pakistan at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, southeast India, on October 23, Kabul was the scene of rare scenes of joy. Residents took to the streets of the capital to sound horns, set off fireworks, sing and dance, defying the Taliban’s bans.

An “inexplicable lightness”

Since the arrival of its new masters, the country has been sinking into the abyss. Individual freedoms are violated, women have been ostracized from society and the humanitarian crisis is such that the United Nations estimates that half of the population suffers from acute hunger. To top it off, a terrible earthquake devastated entire villages in the northwest region of Herat in early October, killing more than 1,000 people.

“Clearly it was not just about cricket, but the sighs of a long-repressed nation,” judge Jyoti Malhotra, Indian journalist, in her column published by the news site The Print, to explain this jubilation. During matches, it is not the black and white flag of the “Islamic Emirate” that proudly flies in the stands, but the red, green and black flag of the former Islamic Republic.

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