After successful completion of the ICC U19 Men's World Cup, a controversy has surfaced including the Afghanistan cricket team. According to recent reports, four members of the Afghanistan cricket team have refused to fly back to their country and have opted to stay in the United Kingdom. The four members include one player and three support staffers.
This is a shocking development in view of the political unrest in Afghanistan. The Afghans did well in the tournament in the West Indies but no one would have expected this to come their way.
As reported by an Afghanistan news outlet, pashtovoa.com, "The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has confirmed that a member of the Under-19 team and three board members have fled to the British capital, London, seeking asylum”. However, the ACB is yet to make an official comment about the same. It's also not sure whether the quartet is seeking asylum, but their location is confirmed to be in London, according to a Cricinfo report. Also, the quartet's transit visa expires in four days (8 February).
Notably, the Afghanistan team boarded the flight from Antigua after their 3rd-4th playoff match against Australia to London and from there the touring party took the flight to Kabul via UAE except for the four in question.
It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Afghanistan U19 players refused to go back home and sought asylum in a different county. In 2009, after U19 World Qualifiers in Toronto, Canada, a few players sought asylum in the country and two of them went on to represent Canada at the international level.
Afghanistan needs them: Raees Ahmedzai
Afghanistan U19 head coach Raees Ahmadzai has claimed that he has messaged all four and has also said to them that Afghanistan cricket needs them. "They received my messages. But they have not responded yet," Ahmadzai was quoted saying by ESPNcricnfo. "I told them Afghanistan needs them. Sports and cricket has done a lot for Afghanistan. The support we got during the World Cup was amazing, unbelievable. Sometimes when you do things for your country, it will mean a lot for you in your whole life," he added.
He further said that despite the Taliban taking over, the future of cricket remains bright in the country. "Cricket will be alive in Afghanistan. The future of the game remains bright. We finished fourth this time compared to seventh in the last edition," said Ahmadzai.