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Our Afghan Service was at Kabul International Airport to greet the Afghan cricket team, who are being hailed as national heroes after reaching the final stage of the 2011 World Cup qualifying competition.

For non-cricket fans, that's a big deal, especially for a country that hasn't been playing it seriously for that long.

The British brought cricket to Afghanistan in the 19th century, but the game really took off after 2000 when Afghan refugees returned from Pakistan, where they had fallen in love with the game.

Tim Albone, a filmmaker making a documentary about the rise of the team, has a piece in the London "Times" where he documents the team's battle against the odds, with sparse funds and nonexistent facilities.

If Afghanistan is a nation full of despair, its cricket team is a rare beacon of hope. The players will tell you that they feel their country has been let down on so many levels by the international community. On that green stretch of grass in Argentina today, at least, it's Afghanistan’s chance to nudge the balance sheet.

Pride is the word that the countless fans and well-wishers have used, again and again, in postings on the team's Facebook page. Says one supporter, Ahmad: "Loins of Afghanistan, proud of you all... I have a wish, that is to show the world that we can beat you." Or, in the words of the captain, Nowroz Mangal, "Cricket is not just a sport. It is much, much more."

It's a heartwarming story.

-- Luke Allnutt

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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