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UNICEF supports a pitch for peace at cricket camp in war-torn Afghanistan

First-ever camp to include coaching for girls

By Leslie Knott

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, 15 November 2010 – In a city where girls are rarely seen on the streets without burquas, this past 11 October marked a special day for 140 girls here, as they donned cricket whites and took to the pitch to learn the basics of batting and bowling.

14 October 2010: UNICEF's Leslie Knott reports on a three-day UNICEF sponsored cricket camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.  Watch in RealPlayer


The event was part of a three-day, UNICEF-sponsored cricket camp run by the AYCSO, an Afghan non-governmental organization. The camp served a total of about 200 girls and boys.

“The theme for this year's camp is ‘Peace Equals Future.’ It is dedicated to youth and development,” said UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Peter Crowley.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Knott
A member of the winning girls' team proudly holds their first trophy at the culmination of a three-day, UNICEF-sponsored cricket camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

“It was very nice to see the girls participating in the training camp,” said AYCSO Director Raees Ahmadzai. “I was surprised by the knowledge and skill that many of them had. They followed us [the Afghan national cricket team] during the past two years as we played international cricket…. This means that girls want to play cricket, and they want to play for Afghanistan. I am sure that if we give the proper facilities, the next 10 years will see a successful female Afghan cricket team.”

Some of the children at the camp travelled from as far away as Torqam, on the border with Pakistan. 

“One of the reasons for choosing the theme is because it is the International Year of the Youth,” he added. “Obviously, youth today are the future of a country. At the same time, the extent to which you can engage youth in positive pastimes like cricket will help in diverting them away from less positive activities – as is the case in many other countries.”

Glowing with excitement

While drones, helicopters and cargo planes flew overhead, the scene on the cricket field gave hope of a brighter future for the young players.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Knott
Players and coaches gather for a UNICEF-sponsored cricket camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. To respect local traditions, female coaches were brought in from Pakistan to work with girl players.

Mina, 14, was glowing with excitement after hitting her first six. “I am so happy to come to this camp and I love to play cricket,” she said. “And I am so happy to meet with other girls who also like cricket!”

Nail-biting finish for boys

While the girls were learning the basics, the boys were attending their own set of activities to refine their skills. With guidance from professionals such as former Afghan national team coach Kabir Khan, they had an opportunity to develop their techniques in batting, bowling and fielding.

The last day of the boys’ camp was spent in a full-day, nail-biting tournament. Habib, 20, was the fast bowler on the team and was ecstatic with their win. “We won the tournament, and we had such a good opportunity to spend these days with our cricket heroes,” he said. “Thank you to UNICEF for providing these camps. We have spent a very good time together, and we won!”



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