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Celebrations erupt in Afghan cities after World Cup heroics

Fans in Khost celebrate Afghanistan's win against Bangladesh (-)
Fans in Khost celebrate Afghanistan's win against Bangladesh (-)

Rare celebrations erupted in multiple Afghan cities on Tuesday after the national cricket team reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time with a nail-biting T20 win over Bangladesh.

Thousands gathered in the capital Kabul and in Khost, Jalalabad and other cities to celebrate the fairytale win, which also eliminated the formidable Australians from the competition.

Fans chanted praise for their "heroes", set off fireworks and danced in the streets. Some shed tears of joy.

"I am lost for words," Hassan Khan Niazai told AFP in Kabul while celebrating the landmark achievement.

"It is a special and historic moment for all Afghans. We are close to winning this World Cup now and being among the champions."

Cricket fever runs deep in Afghanistan. The team's World Cup  heroics have provided rare moments of widespread celebration in a country ravaged by four decades of war and beleaguered by economic, humanitarian and political crises.

Many celebrations were short-lived, however.

The Taliban authorities, who have regularly cracked down quickly on unannounced public gatherings since retaking power in 2021, sent in security personnel to disperse the crowds.

In eastern Khost, firemen and security personnel used water cannons to clear the roads of jubilant fans.

Tuning in from home in Khost, Madina Sadiq and her children were up around dawn to watch the match held over 11,000 kilometres (7,000 miles) away in Arnos Vale on the Caribbean island of St Vincent.

"It feels like another Eid after Eid al-Adha," Sadiq told AFP, of the major Muslim holiday which took place earlier in June.

"It's a special and rare moment in my life," she said, adding her children hugged her at each high point of the nerve-jangling match that saw Afghanistan defeat Bangladesh by eight runs.

"The moment we won I couldn't control myself and cried out of happiness. I don't remember our family being so happy as we were today and the day when we beat Pakistan," she added, referring to the 50-over World Cup last year.

Afghanistan's big rivals Pakistan are already out of the T20 World Cup. Afghanistan next face South Africa in the semi-finals.

"This victory means the world to us, congratulations to the entire nation," the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) posted on social media site X.

Qudratullah Rasooli, a 25-year-old day labourer in Kabul, said Afghanistan's troubles had been temporarily put aside.

"With the situation in Afghanistan in the last four years, cricket is the only thing left that gives us joy," he said.

"It's a happy day for us and for all the Afghan nation."

strs-abh/sw/pst