Former Afghan women’s chief pleads with people not to boycott men’s cricket

ISLAMABAD: According to the former director of the women’s squad, international cricketers should help Afghanistan’s men’s team rather than punishing them by boycotting matches if the Taliban prevents women from playing.

Tuba Sangar, who fled to Canada immediately after the country fell to the radical Islamist organization, cautioned that sports penalties would harm the game at the grassroots level, particularly for women and girls.

“Boycotting the male team is not a good idea. On Tuesday, Sangar stated, “They did a lot for Afghanistan; they introduced Afghanistan to the world in a great light.”

“There would be no chance for cricket overall if we didn’t have a male team,” said the 28-year-old, who served as the Afghanistan Cricket Board’s director of women’s cricket from 2014 to 2020.

After a top Taliban official went on television and said it was “not necessary” for women to play cricket, Australia’s cricket administrators threatened to cancel the historic maiden Test between the two countries, which was slated to take place in November.

Before being deposed in 2001, the Taliban outlawed most types of entertainment, including several sports, and utilized stadiums as public execution sites.

Women were not allowed to participate in sports at all.

However, the sport has exploded in popularity in recent decades, thanks in large part to cricket-crazed Pakistan on the other side of the border.

This time, hardline Islamists have demonstrated that they don’t mind males playing cricket by organizing a tournament in Kabul shortly after foreign soldiers withdrew.

On Tuesday, however, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, Afghanistan’s new director general for sports, refused to say whether women will be allowed to participate in sports, instead deferring the decision to top-level Taliban authorities.

The takeover has cast doubt on Afghanistan’s future participation in Test matches, as nations are required by the International Cricket Council to have an active women’s squad.

The Afghan men’s squad will also compete in the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from October 17 to November 14.

Last Monday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) begged Australia not to punish its men’s team, claiming that it was “powerless to change Afghanistan’s culture and religious environment.”

Later, ACB chairman Azizullah Fazli told SBS Radio Pashto that he believes women will be allowed to play.

He said that all 25 members of the women’s team elected to stay in Afghanistan, despite a BBC report earlier this month claiming that several were hiding.

“I feel like a strong lady when I play. One ex-player told the BBC, “I can envision myself as a lady who can achieve anything, who can make her dreams come true.”

However, Sangar claimed that the Taliban’s takeover had “destroyed the hope” of female cricketers playing worldwide.

“We didn’t have the opportunity to play at an international level from 2014 until now,” she said, “but there was optimism, and everyone was trying their hardest to make it happen.”

“There are some talented girls who aspired to one day carry their country’s flag on their shoulders and demonstrate to the world that Afghan women can play cricket.”

The men’s team is now placed in the top ten in the world in both One-day Internationals and Twenty20 games. Cricketing nations may help Afghanistan’s female players by funding a team in exile, according to Sangar.

“We can play from third countries,” she remarked, pointing out that Afghanistan’s football squad has previously competed while stationed abroad. “It will give those who remain in Afghanistan some hope,” she said.

Zainab Murtaza

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