Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Heroes' welcome for Afghan Twenty20 cricket team

By Emal Pasarly
BBC Pashto

Returning Afghan team
After their success, the cricketers are idolised by many people in the country

The Afghan cricket team have returned home to a heroes' welcome after winning the qualifying competition in Dubai for the ICC World Twenty20.

Hundreds of fans from across the country travelled to the airport in Kabul to greet the players with drums and the national dance.

The cricketers were taken to a hotel in the city for more celebrations.

Team captain Nooroz Mangal thanked the supporters and expressed hope that the team would now get a decent ground.

'International standard'

So popular are the players that a bank promised each player a new car while a private airline has said it will present a $20,000 gift to the team.

Afghanistan celebrate qualifying for the ICC World Twenty20
Afghanistan were in the fifth division of world cricket two years ago

But some players complained that in the past such promises have not been met - they have expressed fears that neither the money nor the car keys will actually materialise.

It was a good occasion for team captain Nooroz Mangal to repeat his plea for an "international standard" cricket ground in Afghanistan.

The country still lacks a single international sport ground.

Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the United Arab Emirates has now been named as Afghanistan's "home ground" for one-day internationals and first-class cricket after the team qualified there for the 2010 World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies, starting on 30 April.

Cricket became popular among Afghan refugees living in Pakistan during the 1980s and 90s.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed in 1995. Like all sports, cricket was originally banned by the Taliban, but was granted an exception by them in 2000.

The Afghanistan Cricket Federation was elected as an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) the following year.

It is the first time in cricketing history that an affiliate member has qualified for a major tournament. Afghanistan has been placed in Group C with India and South Africa.

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Times Live South Africa Afghan cricketers return to rapturous welcome - 8 hrs ago
Reuters UK Cricket-Afghans aiming to upset heroes at Twenty20 World Cup - 11 hrs ago
The News International Afghans get rapturous welcome - 17 hrs ago Afghanistan welcome their heroes - 19 hrs ago
Sydney Morning Herald Afghan cricketers welcomed home - 30 hrs ago

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