'Help us play again' - Afghanistan's female cricketers plead to ICC amid Taliban ban

“Our dreams were shattered from the day the Taliban came. Everything — bat, cricket equipment, we burned everything because of the fear," an Afghanistan female cricketer narrated.

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Afghanistan women
Afghanistan woman. (Photo by AREF KARIMI/AFP via Getty Images)

August 15, 2021 was one of the darkest days in the history of Afghanistan. Millions of people were forced to flee the country as the Taliban took control. Furthermore, the reign also saw the fall of women’s sports in the country. The Taliban banned women’s sports and education in the country, and that heavily affected the Afghanistan women’s cricket team.

One player who stood out in that squad was Firooza Amiri. Being just 18 years old when the Taliban took power, Amiri was forced to go to Pakistan and eventually relocate to Australia, along with her many teammates from the squad.

However, after more than two years, Amiri is still looking for the side’s place in international cricket. The entire squad has been pleading with the ICC (International Cricket Council) and the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to provide the women’s team with a place to play.

"Yeah, unfortunately, two weeks ago was the two-year anniversary of the Taliban and our BLACK DAY, It was a black day for me and all the girls of Afghanistan, the day our dreams were destroyed and all the efforts of many years of each of us were destroyed, When Herat fell, we decided to go to Kabul and reach one of the foreign embassies. When we arrived in Kabul, we saw that Afghanistan had fallen completely to the Taliban and all the people were going to the airport to be able to leave the country, we did the same," Amiri was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.

“It was very painful for me when I saw that all the girls, journalists, and politicians of Afghanistan were going to the airport and were leaving their country," Amiri said. “For me, the most terrifying moment of my life was when I saw that there was shooting everywhere, people were screaming and crying, and even a young man had been shot five times . . . that was the moment when we stopped going to the airport and I and my teammates went to a safe house.," she added.

I was afraid. I was very scared: Friba Hotack

One of Amiri’s teammates, Friba Hotack, also came forward to talk about her situation when the Taliban took over. She stated that due to her life being in danger, she had to separate from her family, and she also opined that the entire team’s dreams were shattered the day the Taliban arrived.

"Because my life was in danger, I separated from my family. I was in Pakistan for a month. I was afraid. I was very scared," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio earlier this year. “Our dreams were shattered from the day the Taliban came. Everything — bat, cricket equipment, we burned everything because of the fear. The day we came to Australia, those dreams came alive again. We started to want to play again. We wanted to have a team here, to play cricket here.”

While they do not get a shot at playing the sport at the highest level, Amiri and a few former teammates are playing a local Melbourne league. But with the Afghanistan men's team taking giant strides in international cricket, the women's team aims to emulate the same. And to enable themselves for that, they have written to the ICC seeking advice.

“Could you please advise what the official stance is on our national playing contracts and future playing opportunities, noting that we are no longer living in Afghanistan?” they wrote. “The funding provided by the ICC to the ACB for the women’s program — where has this money gone? And can it be redirected to an organization in Australia to invest in our development ... so we can still represent our country on the international stage?

"We mentioned that we had been safely moved to Australia and that we know the situation in Afghanistan but with your help and support... our hopes of representing our country remains alive. We are waiting for your leadership and your right decision," she added.

Amiri has confirmed that the Afghanistan Cricket Board or ICC has not contacted them. “We did not receive any help or even any hope from them, even though since 2017 they used the budget of men and women only for men and never supported the women’s team."

Meanwhile, the ICC has expressed its inability to intervene, citing that the ACB is an autonomous body functioning in an independent capacity. 

“The ICC board remains committed to supporting the Afghanistan Cricket Board and are not penalizing the ACB, or their players for abiding by the laws set by the government of their country,” the ICC said in an emailed statement to Associated Press.

“The relationship with players in any of the ICC’s member countries is managed by the board in that country, the ICC does not get involved. Similarly, the authority to field men’s and women’s national teams lies solely with the member board in any country, not with the ICC," it adds.

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