Photo: AFP via The Telegraph

ICC has left Afghanistan’s women cricket team in limbo in Australia

Afghanistan’s women’s cricket team has been left in limbo as they wait for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to recognise them as an official team in Australia.

According to BBC News, members of the Afghanistan women’s team say they have still had no contact from the ICC, despite it setting up the Afghanistan Working Group in 2021 to “review the status of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and cricket in Afghanistan.”

Nahida Sapan, an all-rounder in Afghanistan’s women’s cricket team, was at university in Kabul when the Taliban retook control of the country. She fled is now living in Australia, where she and her fellow teammates are waiting for the ICC to recognise them as an official team. Sapan is one of more than 20 members of the Afghan women’s cricket team now living in Australia after fleeing Afghanistan.

She told BBC News: “I want my team back because I worked really hard. I faced many challenges to achieve my dream to be part of the national team … but now I can’t play under the name of Afghanistan,” Aysha Yousofzai, a 17-year-old bowler who escaped Afghanistan, said. “I just want my rights and to be treated as a human. I just want them to treat me like they treat male players in Afghanistan.”

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at campaign group Human Rights Watch, said the ICC needs to recognize the women’s national team in Australia, but also press for women to be able to play in Afghanistan. “If the ACB fails to comply, Worden says Afghanistan should be suspended by the ICC, which would mean the men’s team would also be unable to play.”

The Taliban has openly supported men’s cricket, knowing how widely loved the game is by Afghans. Worden believes that the threat of the men being suspended from the international game could act as a “pressure point” on the Taliban to lift restrictions on women playing sport.

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Sapan and Yousofzai both dream of one day returning to their homeland. “I would love to be in Afghanistan and play for Afghanistan because that’s where I was born, that’s where I feel I belong,” Yousofzai says. “If there is freedom of speech, gender equality, the opportunities I have in Australia … I’d love to be there. But if there is not, then no.” Both women want to one day become psychologists and to be active in promoting gender equality in Afghanistan and Australia.

But for now, they simply want to be able to play the game they love. “I want my team back because I worked really hard. I faced many challenges to achieve my dream to be part of the national team … but now I can’t play under the name of Afghanistan,” Yousofzai says.