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Afghans celebrate fairytale advance to World Cup semis

Staff WritersReuters
Fans celebrated in multiple Afghan cities after the cricket team reached the World Cup semi-finals. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconFans celebrated in multiple Afghan cities after the cricket team reached the World Cup semi-finals. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AAP

Celebrations have erupted in Afghanistan following the national cricket team's dramatic victory over Bangladesh, earning them a place for the first time in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup.

In the cities of Khost and Jalalabad, thousands of people gathered to cheer on their team and celebrate, local officials and eyewitnesses said on Tuesday.

Afghanistan reached the last four with a dramatic eight-run victory over Bangladesh, and now face South Africa.

The country, which has been under Taliban control since August 2021, knocked out powerhouse Australia, whom they upset two days earlier in the process.

Once Australia lost to India earlier in the day, Afghanistan only needed to overcome Bangladesh to be assured of a historic semi-final berth.

"It is like Eid for us; we are preparing for the night, and the celebration will continue," said Rashedullah, a resident of south-eastern Khost province.

"This event has given reason for hope to the youth who were previously disappointed," he added.

Cricket represents a rare bright spot for many Afghans and has also been embraced by the Taliban administration, though they do not allow women to play.

"People in other provinces like Jalalabad, Khost, Paktia, and Kabul celebrated by coming to the streets, it is a great victory," said Syeed Nasim Sadat, spokesman for the Afghanistan Cricket Board.

The country is suffering after a series of natural disasters came on top of an economic crisis, exacerbated by international restrictions on the banking sector and a drop in aid since the Taliban took over and restricted women's education and movement.

The Taliban administration's acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi called the cricket team's skipper Rashid Khan to offer congratulations, a foreign ministry statement said.

"Afghans are excelling in all fields. We must keep sports separate from politics," said Muttaqi.

"Your victory has made everyone happy, you are a great inspiration for the youth."

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