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Moment that mattered: Afghanistan qualifies for the Cricket World Cup

Afghan cricket fans celebrate runs by their team as they watch a match between Afghanistan and Kenya on a screen at the International Cricket Stadium in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. War-weary Afghanistan achieved one of its finest sporting moments by qualifying for its first Cricket World Cup on Friday. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

“The day of our first ever qualification for the Cricket World Cup was an important one for Afghanistan as well as for the team. People were celebrating across the country, chanting the names of the players.

We consider our qualification a gift to the country’s young generation: the sport is growing in Afghanistan, and it brings Pashtuns, Hazaras and Tajiks together as one. People from around the world will be watching the World Cup, and our qualification shows them that Afghanistan is growing as a nation.

I first started playing cricket in the refugee camp in Peshawar in Pakistan where I was born. There was no proper electricity, no proper drinking water and no proper housing – it was a difficult life. I played in the streets with my cousins and some people told me I was good at it and should join a club. From then on, I went straight to the club each day after school.

In 2002 I travelled to Afghanistan to play a cricket match. I performed well and was selected for the national team, even though I was too young to play for them officially at the time. It was my first time in Afghanistan and seeing the destruction made me very unhappy. This was my country and the roads, the walls, the buildings, even the trees – everything was destroyed. Now it has totally changed, especially in Kabul. It looks like a new city, with good buildings and houses.

I’m now very happy to live in Afghanistan. I have my own home, my own car, and everything is going well. Everybody knows me as well. I go outside and people shout, ‘Hey it’s Nabi! Look at Nabi!’ My family is proud of me, and they all pray for my success. But in May, my father was kidnapped, and that happened because of my profile as the team captain. The kidnappers thought I would make as much money as Indian cricketers. Afghans don’t always understand that in this country there’s not much money in cricket. Fortunately my father has been released now, with the help of the government.

We have had to prepare for our first Asia Cup, and now we have the T20 World Cup coming up in March 2014. After that we’ll start thinking properly about the World Cup in 2015. I won’t say it’s impossible to win it, but it’s our first time so it will be difficult. We will try our best to make the country proud.”

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