Afghans celebrate in their thousands as men's cricket team reach first T20 World Cup semi-finals

25 June 2024, 16:27 | Updated: 25 June 2024, 18:59

Afghans flooded the country's streets in their thousands on Tuesday to rejoice in their men's cricket team reaching the T20 World Cup semi-finals for the first time.

Celebrations erupted throughout the Taliban-run country as people in Kabul, Khost, Jalalabad and beyond enjoyed the dramatic victory over Bangladesh.

Rashedullah, a resident of the southeastern Khost province said: "This event has given reason for hope for the youth who were previously disappointed".

That group of young people won't include women, of course, whom the Taliban have forbidden from playing cricket.

The Taliban seized power again in 2021, becoming the entrenched leaders of Afghanistan and ending two decades of increased economic opportunities and freedom for women in the country.

Cricket represents a rare source of comfort for many male Afghans and has also been embraced by the Taliban administration.

Rare good news

The victory represents a welcome respite for a country that has suffered a series of natural disasters on top of an economic crisis exacerbated by international restrictions on the banking sector and a drop-off in aid since the Taliban seized power and limited women's education and movement.

The Taliban administration's acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi seized the moment to call the cricket team's captain Rashid Khan and offer his congratulations, a foreign ministry statement said.

"Your victory has made everyone happy, you are a great inspiration for the youth," he said.

After Afghanistan beat Bangladesh by a nervy eight runs in St. Vincent in the Caribbean, Shah Mohammad, 42, from Kabul, said: "I can't find words to explain my happiness at this moment. It is a massive victory for all Afghans.

"We are so proud of our national team. They have created such a happy moment for us, and now we are optimistic that the team will make it to the final."

Former president Hamid Karzai also applauded the team.

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Even with the game showing at 5am in Afghanistan, crowds took to the streets to watch the it on public screens.

Pictures and videos showed throngs of male fans celebrating and cheering after victory via the Duckworth-Lewis method.