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