OPINION: Afghanistan should know its place before Pakistan

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The Pakistan-Afghanistan match that took place on Sunday was not a pleasant one. There were too many scuffles inside and outside the stadium as well as the display of political messages that tarnished the spirit in which the game was played.

Pakistanis are quite thankful to Imad Wasim for playing a match-winning knock of 49 runs to steer Pakistan to victory. The match between the two rivals went down the wire with Pakistan securing the win in the last over, with a handful of deliveries to spare.

However, it was unpleasant to see a couple of Afghanis brawl with Pakistani supporters. A respected journalist, Ihtisham ul Haq tweeted that the scuffles were not between Pakistan and Afghanistan fans but over fake tickets being sold to some Afghan fans.

However, when the match started to get close and when Pakistan secured the win in the last over (courtesy a majestic shot under pressure from Imad), Afghan fans seemed to lose it completely.

There are videos of Afghanistan fans assaulting Pakistani supporters outside the stadium (I’m sure that wasn’t over any fake tickets) and scores of Afghanistan fans throwing chairs and juice bottles at Pakistani cricket fans (who had to retaliate).

I think Afghanistan should learn its place before Pakistan. Let me state for the record–I know there is political history between the two countries but this was not a political event–it was a harmless cricket match between two neighbouring countries.

Since Pakistan has played quite a lot of matches against its arch-rival India and over the course of decades, seldom have we witnessed such ugly fights in the stands. It’s safe to assume that the Afghani fans got quite rowdy and assaulted Pakistani fans without any form of provocation (that’s my guess and from what I can gather from the videos doing the rounds on the internet).

Pakistan and India have been playing matches since the past couple of decades. However, rarely have such ugly fights or altercations ever taken place between fans of the two sides in stadiums. Indian fans have always respected Pakistani legends such as Miandad, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Zaheer Abbas, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and the likes. Pakistanis, on the other hand, have a profound love for Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble and a lot of cricketers I can’t name here for the lack of time.

Afghanistan should realise that they have a long way to go. Regardless of whatever Pakistan’s role was in their political history mired by violence and bloodshed, Pakistani cricketers have helped out Afghanistan when it comes to cricket. Rashid Latif and Kabir Khan were instrumental in developing Afghanistani cricketers when they served as coaches to the team during the past decade. Even Inzamam ul Haq, Pakistan’s incumbent chief selector, helped Afghanistan as their coach a little over three years ago.

The trend #PakistanvsNamakharaams was indeed out of line and such things should not be condoned. However, Pakistan has a ‘liberal brigade’ who were quick to condemn Twitter trends but stayed silent when it came to condemning the actions of the Afghanistan fans inside and outide the stadium.

The same brigade went a step further and said that Pakistanis should realise how we’ve damaged Afghanistan over the years by patronising militants and bringing their country to ruin.

Now that is such a silly opinion to have. Why say that when 22 players from across two countries are building bridges by playing a cricket match? Why bring politics into the mix? Had it been a political event between the two countries or something related to the Afghan peace process, these comments would have made sense. But why do the educated elite in Pakistan make buffoons of themselves by tweeting such comments when there’s no place for them during a cricket match?

Gulbadin Naib (Afghanistan skipper) and Afghanistan’s ace spinner, Rashid Khan, learned the sport playing it in refugee camps in Pakistan. The PCB helped ACB develop the sport in Afghanistan by providing it equipment and helping it with infrastructure.

ACB Interim CEO Asadullah Khan said that Pakistan needed Afghanistan’s help to improve its cricket.
“We are currently far better than Pakistan in cricket & they should ask us for technical, coaching & more support for the betterment of their cricket,” he said.

It’s only fair that Afghanistan learns its place before Pakistan. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Our legends, cricketers and board officials have promoted cricket in your war-torn country. The least you can do is not issue insulting statements or jibes in public.

I said it before and I’ll say it again–Afghanistan has a long way to go when it comes to cricket. It should recognise Pakistan as its mentor and benefactor in the sport. Use cricket diplomacy to thaw the frosty ties and promote friendship and brotherhood between the two countries.

To those who want to mix politics with sport, grow up. It’s high time you do.

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