Afghan cricketers play for peace in Pakistan

Published: Monday, October 15, 2001, 1:45 [IST]
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Peshawar: The Afghan cricket team began a tour of Pakistan on Sunday hoping to be ambassadors for peace as US-led forces bomb the Taliban militia ruling its homeland.
 The 16-man squad arrived in this northwestern Pakistani city to compete in the second division of the domestic Patrons Trophy, the club competition in North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan. Captain Allah Dad Noori said cricket had nothing to do with politics, but he hoped the tour would help dispel misconceptions that Afghanistan was a haven for terrorists and Islamic extremists. "We have the sense that Afghanistan is under bombardment and attack and innocent people have been killed," he said, shortly after his arrival from the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad which has been subjected to intense bombing. "But we have come here to Pakistan to play cricket and show the world that we are not terrorists, that we are just ordinary people. We are the peace ambassadors for Afghanistan." Cricket is not generally played in Afghanistan, a country which never allowed itself to be dominated by the British when it ruled the Indian sub-continent. But the sport has a dedicated following among returned refugees who learned to play the game in camps in Pakistan during the 1979-89 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The hardline Taliban militia, blamed for harbouring alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, bans most sport as un-Islamic. But it allows football and cricket matches as long as the players respect "Islamic" dress codes forbidding the display of too much thigh. Noori said he hoped the team would compete with the more experienced Pakistani sides when the competition begins with a two-day match against the Nau Shera district club on Monday. "We don't want to talk about politics. We came here to play cricket," he said.

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