Despite a stark lack of funds and facilities, cricket's popularity at home is peaking, providing a tool to unify the country.
The 2015 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup consists of 14 teams including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, West Indies, and Zimbabwe.
Thousands of Afghans took to the streets to celebrate their team's victory over Nepal in a qualifying round. The game is not new to the republic, which shares borders with cricket-mad Pakistan and India, but during decades of war, sports took a back seat.
This was especially the case under the Taliban, who famously banned football and used the national stadium for public executions. Cricket was one of the few non-violent physical activities the radical regime favoured, but little was done to develop the sport.
On Twitter, Bilal Sarwary shared an image of people in the country playing their favourite sport:
— Bilal Sarwary (@bsarwary) June 8, 2014
Shaista Sadat Lameh, an Afghan journalist, wished the team success:
— Shaista Sadat Lameh (@ShaistaLameh) January 30, 2015
I wish success to my team! Today, Afghan national cricket team left for Australia
And a well-to-do businessman apparently announced a reward for the first Afghan batsman to make a century in their first game:
Abdul Yasini , an Afghan announced 15,000$ reward for any cricket player who make 100 runs against Bangladesh in… http://t.co/PSkNp0XD0L
— Wais Barakzai (@WaisBarakzai) February 2, 2015
مدثر اسلامی concluded that the days of proxy-supporting were over, now the country had a team it could be proud of:
— مدثر اسلامي (@mmodaser) February 10, 2015
Despite losing a warm-up match against India, the Afghans secured victories against both Ireland and Scotland as they prepared for the tournament. Those wins have led to a surge of optimism ahead of their first Cricket World Cup fixture against Bangladesh. But for many ordinary Afghans, after years of watching international sporting tournaments from a distance, it is being there that is most important of all.