The Karzai Stadium in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, is a popular venue among young Afghans. Thanks to the renovation work carried out by the provincial government, and the improved security provided by the brave personnel of the Afghan security forces.
Some years ago, only football was played here, but now the stadium attracts hundreds of young cricket players and fans. According to the Helmand Cricket Board chief, Mohammad Hossain Foladwal, there are more than 50 registered cricket teams in the province.
“The achievements of the Afghan national cricket team have been great inspiration for the Helmandi youth. During the last three years, cricket has become the most popular sport in Helmand,” Foladwal said.
According to him cricket in particular and sports in general have changed the lives of many youngsters. Investing in sports facilities helps keep the youth away from anti-social activities, such as drugs and violence.
Abdul Hakim Hamnawa from Greshk district and a promising young cricketer said, “Before I was playing football and that was fun too. But then I saw a game where the Afghan cricket players were playing, and it really inspired me. I decided that I want to learn to play cricket.”
Hamnawa helped establish the first cricket team in Greshk district, which has earned good reputation around the province. The players are new, but their passion for the game is exemplary.
“I am the skipper of my team. I am happy to see that more and more youths are taking interest in cricket here. One day, I hope to be a player who has positive and encouraging impact to all the young Afghans,” Hamnawa said, “Like our national hero, Hamid Hassan, who plays in Afghanistan’s national team.”
Abdul Aziz Safdari is a member of the Lashkar Gah cricket team. He was also inspired by the Afghan national team.
“I saw them playing on TV. I watched their faces, skills and success, and listened to the Afghan national anthem played in foreign lands. That was when I wanted to become a good cricket player. They are my heroes, and I hope that I would be able defeat my competitors the way Afghan national players do,” Safdari said.
Only a few years ago there was no interest in cricket in Helmand province, but today, whenever there is a cricket match, no one wants to miss it. Cricket has become a phenomenon of unity which gets all the people to come together to cheer and support their favourite teams and players.