International cricketers should support Afghanistan’s men’s team, not punish them by boycotting matches, if the Taliban bar women from playing, the former director of the women’s team said.
Tuba Sangar, who fled Afghanistan for Canada shortly after the fall of the country to the Taliban, said that sports sanctions would damage the game at the grassroots — including for women and girls.
“It’s not a good idea to boycott the male team. They did a lot for Afghanistan — they introduced Afghanistan to the world in a positive way,” Sangar said on Tuesday.
“If we don’t have a male team, there would be no hope for cricket overall,” said the 28-year-old, who was director of women’s cricket for the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) from 2014 to last year.
Australia’s cricket officials have threatened to cancel a historic maiden Test between the two countries — set to take place in November — after a senior Taliban official went on television to say that it was “not necessary” for women to play.
During their first stint in power, before being ousted in 2001, the Taliban banned most forms of entertainment — including many sports — and stadiums were used as public execution venues. Women were completely banned from playing sports.
However, the sport has become immensely popular over the past few decades, largely as a result of cricket-mad Pakistan across the border. This time around, the Taliban have shown that they do not mind men playing cricket, pulling together a match in the capital, Kabul, shortly after foreign forces withdrew.
However, on Tuesday, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, Afghanistan’s new director-general for sports, declined to answer as to whether women would be allowed to play sports — deferring it for top-level Taliban leaders to decide.
The takeover has called into question the future of Afghanistan’s participation in Test matches, as under International Cricket Council regulations, nations must also have a women’s team.
The Afghan men’s team is also scheduled to play the T20 World Cup from Oct. 17 to Nov. 14 in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
The ACB last week urged Australia not to punish its men’s team, saying that it was “powerless to change the culture and religious environment of Afghanistan.”
ACB chairman Azizullah Fazli later told SBS Radio Pashto that he is still hopeful that women would be allowed to play.
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