A young Afghan plays cricket on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, 15 January 2015. EPA/FILE/HEDAYATULLAH AMID

Cricket triumph cheers Afghans amid quake disaster, crises under Taliban

Kabul, Oct 16 (EFE).- The people of Afghanistan found a reason to celebrate after their national team handed a shocking defeat to England in the ongoing Cricket World Cup in India, especially as they grapple with a tragedy in the aftermath of a series of devastating earthquakes and economic and social hardship under the Taliban regime.

Men play cricket in Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 September 2021. EFE/FILE/Stringer

Afghanistan upset defending champions England by 69 runs on Sunday in Delhi in the league stage of the 2023 Cricket World Cup, marking its biggest victory in its favorite sport.

“It was more like we won the World Cup, and the whole night I didn’t sleep due to happiness,” Mirullah Kharotay, a cricket enthusiast, told EFE.

The sporting success brought much cheer to the nation, which is grieving the loss of thousands of people in a series of earthquakes in the western part of the country that have left some 4,500 casualties, including dead and wounded.

Since Oct. 7, Afghanistan’s Herat province has suffered multiple earthquakes and aftershocks—the last of them on Sunday—leaving the country to face one of its worst disasters in decades.

The situation has been exacerbated as the de facto Taliban appears to be without an appropriate response plan.

Lack of coordination between the Taliban government and humanitarian organizations has complicated the emergency response and distribution of aid, leading to an inadequate supply of food and water.

There has been no proper coordinated record of those dead and missing or relief for the affected, as families in the affected areas are left to sleep outside on the streets and survivors are left digging in the mud to search for their loved ones.

“There was sadness everywhere due to the current situation and earthquake effect, but this victory made our day,” a shopkeeper, who identified himself as Tawfiq, told EFE.

However, even the celebrations on the streets were muted due to the strict laws against entertainment under the Islamist regime that came to power two years ago.

Apart from cracking down on women’s rights, the Taliban has also imposed restrictions on music and other forms of entertainment, as well as the use of the national flag of the erstwhile democracy, which was a uniting symbol for the war-ravaged country.

Things are made even worse by economic sanctions on the country following the Taliban’s return to power, which has frozen Afghanistan’s financial assets abroad and cut it off from the international banking system.

“Several times I went out of my house to see the celebration in the streets, but unfortunately, the current situation made people disappointed. Therefore, the celebration was only on social media,” Tawfiq rued.

During the previous democratic government under US occupation, the country’s victories on the cricket field were celebrated with the national dance (Atan) and convoys of cars on the streets waving the Afghan national flag, while the media was abuzz with cricket songs and music.

Moreover, the accomplishments were celebrated publicly by government officials, as opposed to the current regime, which is yet to issue any congratulatory messages for its monumental feat in its most loved sport.

However, former government officials continued to publicly express their joy at their team’s victory, with former President Hamid Karzai and the former Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, posting congratulatory messages on social media.

In a country facing a crisis at all levels, cricket has succeeded in at least bringing some cheer among people facing natural disasters, economic hardship, and curtailed rights.

“To be honest, in Afghanistan, the only happiness right now is the victory in cricket, especially the win over England, where the game was invented. (…) it was a historical night,” Azeem, another shopkeeper, told EFE. EFE