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Afghanistan Celebrates Historic Cricket Win

  • Frud Bezhan

As members of the Afghan national team fell to their knees in tears after winning their first-ever match in the Cricket World Cup, adoring fans at home erupted in celebration.

The Blue Tigers, considered underdogs going into the tournament, pulled off a dramatic, one-wicket win over Scotland on February 26 at the University Oval in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Following the victory, players ran around the field in wild celebration as thousands of Afghan supporters cheered them on.

​In Kabul, streets were clogged with dancing revelers and motorists honking horns in celebration. Hundreds of Afghans gathered at the Afghan Cricket Board's office in the capital, waving national flags and cheering.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Hamidullah, a university student in Kabul. "We are so proud of our national team. I can't tell you how happy we all are."

Razaq, another cricket fan in Kabul, could hardly contain himself. "All I can say is congratulations to the team and to Afghanistan."

In other major cities, celebratory gunfire rang out, prompting police intervention. In some areas security forces joined in the celebrations. Several people were reported injured by gunfire in the southeastern provinces of Ghazni, Kunar, and Nangarhar.

Team captain Mohammad Nabi, congratulated his teammates, with special thanks to man of the match Samiullah Shenwari.

Shenwari, hit 96 runs, the highest score by an Afghan batsman in a World Cup match.

Afghanistan's national cricket team was only formed in 2001, and spent years struggling in the lower leagues of world cricket. A breakthrough came in 2010, when it qualified for the International Cricket Council World Twenty20, the team's first major tournament. Now Afghanistan plays in the sport's top group of teams for One Day Internationals.

Shenwari said after the match that young Afghans will be able to see cricket as a way to rise above the trials of daily life.

"I think there was nothing before," Shenwari told the AP news agency. "You can look 10 or eight years ago, there was nothing in Afghanistan. But now you can see the streets, school, everything you go, it's just cricket and cricket, so maybe in the next 10 years maybe we can do [more]."

The victory over Scotland will come as a huge boost for cricket in Afghanistan, where it has been growing in popularity over the past decade. Many players on the national team learned to play cricket in refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan, where cricket enjoys a huge following.

At home, however, the imported sport suffered from a lack of infrastructure and funding. But, in the space of just a few years, the respect the team has gained for its swashbuckling performances has been capped with a win on the world stage.

And Afghanistan is not yet done. The Blue Tigers have now set their sights on reaching the quarterfinals, and will look to notch more victories against the two co-hosts -- Australia and New Zealand -- as well as England in the group stage.

Written by Frud Bezhan with reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to