War-weary Afghanistan achieved a sports breakthrough Friday by qualifying for its first Cricket World Cup.
The Afghans had to beat Kenya in the last match of the World Cricket League Championship, and won by seven wickets in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
"This is a big day in my life," said Mohammad Nabi of the Afghan team. "It’s a gift to a young (Afghan) generation."
For Afghanistan to qualify for a World Cup is remarkable progress for a country that has only a handful of turf fields. Most of the players grew up playing cricket in refugee camps in Pakistan.
Afghanistan edged UAE for the second automatic qualifying spot in the eight-team competition that started in June last year. Afghanistan and Ireland, the championship winner, advance to the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
"This is the best day of my coaching life," said Kabir Khan, a former Pakistan test cricketer.
A thousand jubilant Afghan fans watched their team’s thumping victory on a giant screen in a stadium in Kabul.
"We don’t want fight, we want peace," said Tahir Mustafa, a Kabul resident who was watching the match.
Afghanistan Finance Minister Mohammad Omar Zakhilwal, also a member of the national cricket board, said the victory heartened his country.
"Our people have seen years and years of sadness and now we are among the best 12 cricketing nations in the world," he said. "We will encourage businessmen and the government to support cricket."
Come 2015, the Afghans will be in a World Cup pool with Australia, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and another qualifier to be determined.Next Page >
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