Afghani women play cricket
Tue, 18 Sep 2012 12:10p.m.
In a small basement in Kabul a team of Afghani women are training to be a competitive cricket team, in a country where the odds are stacked against them.
Under the previous hardline Muslim rulers of the country, the Taliban, women were suppressed in most walks of life and taking part in sport was unthinkable.
Now, in a more liberal society, women are officially free to take up sports and with the recent emergence of a national men's cricket team - currently taking part in the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka - the sport is gaining in popularity.
But the women's team based in Kabul receives no official support, training facilities are almost non existent and practice takes place on a rough patch of grass and attracts few spectators, apart from a group of young boys who cheers and whistle enthusiastically.
"We don't have a proper ground for cricket. We don't have cricket equipment," says player Farahnaz Tazhib.
"We have many problems and I ask the government, especially our president, to support us."
Another player, Nabila Hameed, said: "I really wish our team could play in international cricket matches where we could serve our country, our people and also bring success to my homeland and be proud of Afghanistan."
Diana Barekzai, founder and coach of the Afghan women's team says families take some persuading to allow their daughters to compete on cricket pitches.
Barekzai first played cricket in Pakistan after her family fled from Afghanistan to escape Taliban rule in 1999. She returned in 2009 and established the first women's cricket board to promote the sport.
"I ask for the permission of their family, that is my aim and the way I encourage their daughters," said Barekzai.
"We realize the problems of Afghan girls and why they are inside their homes not able to go out for sport. Unfortunately no one has taken responsibility for encouraging the girls.
"I am not doing this for money and I don't have any salary here, my wish is just to train these girls so they can win pride for their family and their nation one day."
But women still fear the return of hardline attitudes to their place in society
On the streets of Kabul, many men's attitude to women playing sport was summed up by Safiullah Khan, who said: "According to Islam it not allowed that a girl play cricket, or train for other sports like football."
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