Afghan cricket fans in UAE delight in nation's performance at World Cup

Afghan supporters talk about their pride in the performance of their national cricket side

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Afghan residents in the UAE erupted with joy as their country's cricket team clinched a thrilling victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in the 2023 World Cup.

Fans told The National the historic win would be be forever etched in their country's sporting history.

Wazhma Ayoubi, owner of a real estate company and fashion brand in Dubai, said that she was in the stadium at Chennai, India, cheering and supporting her national team.

“I was overwhelmed when the match ended. It is our first win against Pakistan in six years. It is like we have won the World Cup,” Ms Ayoubi said.

"The Afghan cricketers are such a source of happiness for us right now."

The 29-year-old, who moved to Dubai six years ago, said she has been a cricket fan for as long as she can remember.

Her love of cricket meant there was no way she was missing her country's opening game in the tournament against India either.

“The atmosphere was amazing as many Indian fans were also cheering for Afghanistan to win the match. A lot of Afghani people travelled to India to support the team," she said.

"I saw Afghani people coming from the US, UK and so many other countries.

“When the flag was raised our tears poured out with the national anthem."

Ms Ayoubi said her country's cricketers have what it takes to go far in the tournament having already defeated England and, now, Pakistan.

“Our players are doing a great job, they have the talent and are working hard," she said.

"We pray they qualify for the semi-finals.”

Female supporters have a voice too

Attending the matches in India as a female supporter is important to Ms Ayoubi because women are not allowed to attend matches or even go to school, in her Taliban-controlled homeland.

“Whatever they do to us they cannot erase us. I want to go to matches to show the world that Afghan women can express their passion for cricket,” she said.

She said the nation's cricketers are role models for Afghan people because they are contributing towards donation drives and helping to fund aid to help those in her home country.

“My favourite player is Rashid Khan and he, along with other players, are doing a fantastic job in contributing to humanitarian activities for our people in Afghanistan. We are all proud of them," she said.

Other members of the UAE-based Afghan community are also supporting their national team, hoping they can win the world cup for the first time in the competition's history.

Mohammed Nasser, 28, who works as a waiter in Dubai, said the atmosphere was electric as he watched the match on TV at the restaurant he works in.

“The match had all the elements of a cricketing classic. This win means the world to us," he said.

It is not just a cricket match, but a moment of unity and pride for all Afghans.

“Our team has shown the world that we are a force to be reckoned with in the cricketing world, and we're here to stay."

Mr Nasser said that one of his heroes, the cricket player Rahmanullah Gurbaz, once visited the restaurant and he had the pleasure to have his picture taken with him.

“He is a humble person and great player. The players made us proud, and this victory is a testament to the resilience and determination of our national cricket team,” he said.

“We are proud of our heritage, and this win brings us closer together."

The cricket World Cup is taking place in India until November 19.

Updated: October 28, 2023, 6:20 AM