Flags, tears, anthem: How Afghans celebrated their cricket win

Flags, tears, anthem: How Afghans celebrated their cricket win

Afghanistan’s win over Scotland in T20 World Cup gave Afghan people reason for joy and hope after two turbulent months.


Kabul, Afghanistan – Afghanistan erupted in celebration on Monday evening, with those following the national cricket team sharing a rare moment of joy with a 130-run win over Scotland in the T20 World Cup.

Afghans, those abroad and the ones in the country, including hundreds of people who have been displaced in the two months since the Taliban takeover, celebrated the win in Sharjah, the national team’s first outing since the fall of the Afghan government.

For Afghan athletes, the victory was a mix of emotions.

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Marzieh Hamidi, a female Taekwondo athlete who has been unable to compete since the Taliban came to power, said that the victory comes at a precarious time for the nation’s athletes.

As a female fighter, Hamidi is afraid for the future of her sport but said she was still overtaken by joy.

“At this time, when everyone is at the height of distress and worry, we all shed tears of happiness and pain to see our cricket team come out on top,” the 19-year-old told Al Jazeera.

But she said that, unlike previous wins, the celebration was confined to inside people’s houses.

“If only we could have taken the happiness to the streets,” she said.

In 2013, when the national football team won the South Asia Cup, the streets of the capital, Kabul, and other cities were filled with thousands of revellers waving the Afghan flag and playing the national anthem from their cars.

Masie Hajizada, owner of one of Kabul’s most popular restaurants, said Monday’s triumph was another example that despite decades of war and destruction, the Afghan people are still capable of unbelievable feats.

“Last night, we were all filled with laughter, tears, happiness and hope. I guarantee, whether in business, sports, whatever, the potential of the Afghan people will surprise the world. The success of our cricket team is just another reminder of that,” Hajizada told Al Jazeera.

To others, the politics of a game that has been passed down to so many nations through their ties with the British Empire, is not lost.

Gul Ahmadzai, an entrepreneur who splits his time between Afghanistan and Tanzania, took the win as an opportunity to remind the world that Afghanistan defeated the British in three separate wars.

“Afghanistan never became part of the empire, and even though we may be a de facto state at the moment, we still won. What other country can say that?” Ahmadzai told Al Jazeera.

From the outset, the match seemed to stir emotions as Afghans expressed their sense of elation and longing for hearing the nation’s national anthem ahead of the match itself.

“Just seeing our flag and hearing the national anthem play from the stadium gave us a sense of hope,” Hamidi, the female Taekwondo fighter, said.