June 24, 2019


AFGHANISTAN'S STUNNING NEW SUCCESS STORY: SPORTS : Because sports are helping this country change its narrative.  (Maroosha Muzaffar, JUN 24 2019, OZY)

In 2010, Afghanistan was ranked 195 among nations in FIFA men's soccer. Today, it's ranked 149, and it has stayed in the 140s over the past five years, demonstrating that their success is no flash in the pan. No other Asian nation has risen by as many spots as Afghanistan in this period. Currently, Afghanistan is ranked behind only India in South Asia, and ahead of much larger nations such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Since 2008, Afghanistan -- which had never won an Olympic medal until then -- has won two: one in 2008 and one in 2012, both in taekwondo. That's again more than any South Asian nation other than India. Afghanistan has also won more medals -- seven -- in the last three Asian Games, the continent's apex sporting event, than in all previous Asian Games combined. These recent Asian Games medals have come in cricket, taekwondo, wushu and the Turkic wrestling form known as kurash.

Afghanistan was admitted into cricket's global body only in 2001. But in 2018, the country became the 12th nation to earn Test status, a five-day test of endurance and cricket's toughest format. Months later, they beat a more seasoned Ireland for their first Test win. And in the shortest format of the sport, T20, Afghan spinner Rashid Khan is ranked the world's top bowler and is a star of the Indian Premier League (IPL), cricket's richest series.

"The fact that Rashid Khan got a million-dollar contract from the IPL allows its youth to dream and believe that we can," says cricket historian Boria Majumdar.

Posted by at June 24, 2019 12:00 AM