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Afghan athletes defy Taliban at Asian Games




On a pristine volleyball court on the seventh floor of a massive training centre in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, a team of Afghanistan women prepare for their first Asian Games in defiance of the Taliban government’s antipathy toward female sport.

Though separated from families and scattered across Asia, the volleyballers have assembled at the multi-sport event with the support of Olympic officials and the sport’s global federation.


Some fled Afghanistan when the Taliban came to power in the wake of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, fearing persecution from a government that has effectively banned women’s sport. With little prospect of returning home, they have rebuilt their lives in Pakistan, Iran and other countries, playing sport in effective exile. Now in Hangzhou, they yearn to give hope to the hopeless – the women athletes left behind in their homeland.

“Nowadays, they are looking for hope,” Mursal Khedri, a Pakistan-based, 24-year-old member of the volleyball team, told Reuters. “By seeing us here they can find hope that we (women) can also participate in sports.”

The Taliban administration say they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan custom and that they have declared a “general amnesty” against their former foes under the previous foreign backed government.

Wearing lycra leggings and shirts with the traditional Afghanistan colours of red, black and green, the team all train in hijabs under the watch of veteran Iranian coach Nasrin Khazani.

They play their first group match against Kazakhstan when the women’s volleyball tournament starts on Saturday.


They are unlikely to get near the knockout rounds and claiming a single win would be a big achievement for a team of exiles up against rival nations with organised programmes and government funding.

However, just their mere recognition by the Games is a boost for women in the country, says Khushal Malakzai, the secretary general of the Afghanistan volleyball federation.

“Actually the important thing for us and also the girls is that participation in such kind of matches and coming here, they give them hope for the future,” he told Reuters.

“And for those girls who are inside Afghanistan and outside Afghanistan, that they should understand that there are people that are still supporting them.” The team’s organiser and fund-raising champion, Malakzai has been based in Melbourne, Australia, for just over a year, having first fled to Pakistan after fearing for his safety in Afghanistan.

He said he left the country on the advice of Afghanistan’s volleyball federation and after receiving multiple threats from Taliban representatives by phone and in writing due to his support for women’s sport. A spokesman for the Taliban administration did not immediately respond to request for comment.


Though initially composed and enthusiastic when talking about the women’s team, Malakzai burst into tears when he saw the players form a circle on the volleyball court, join hands and cry “Afghanistan!” at the end of their training session.

“I am so happy they can be here. But for the girls at home in Afghanistan, it is hopeless,” he said. For the Afghanistan women in Hangzhou, it is a thrill to compete at a high level but there are also nerves. There are 17 in total, competing in volleyball, cycling and athletics.

Australia-based Kimia Yousofi, who will compete in the women’s 100 metres and carried the Afghanistan flag at the Hangzhou opening ceremony last Saturday with a male team mate, declined to be interviewed.

Her Australia-based coach John Quinn said she did not want attention in case of reprisals against her connections in Afghanistan. The Afghan women and men marched as one team at the opening ceremony, behind the traditional tri-colour national flag and not the white one used by the Taliban government. The delegation includes male athletes and sport officials based in Afghanistan. They are unlikely to attend competition venues to cheer on the women’s volleyball team or other Afghan women athletes due to the sensitivity of the situation. Malakzai saw little prospect of things changing in the short-term. “So we hope that everything will change and the Taliban even accepts the women,” he said. “But it will take time.”


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PCB reveals schedule of National T20 Super 8




The schedule for the National T20 Super 8 has been revealed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) following the advancement of the top two teams from each group to the Super Eight stage. This stage is set to take place in a round-robin format spanning from December 1 to December 8. 


🚨 Schedule of the @AHGroup_Pk Presents Jazz Super 4G National T20 Cup 2023-24 Super 8 🗓️

Which team are you backing to win the tournament❓#NationalT20 | #AajaMaidanMein


— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) November 30, 2023

Following the Super Eight stage, the top four teams will qualify for the semi-finals. Both semi-finals are scheduled to be played on 9 December at National Bank Stadium, at 1500 PKT and 2000 PKT respectively.

The final is scheduled to be played at the same venue on 10 December. The toss will take place at 1930 PKT and the first ball will be bowled at 2000 PKT.

The winning team of the tournament will pocket a prize money of PKR 5 million. 
Meanwhile, the tournament runners-up will be awarded PKR 2.5 million. The player of the tournament will be rewarded with PKR 250,000. The same amount has been allotted to three other awards; best batter, best bowler and best wicket-keeper of the tournament. The player of the final will receive PKR 50,000 while player of the match in each of the 
Super Eight games and the semi-finals will be given PKR 25,000.

This is the first edition of the tournament played since the PCB 2014 Constitution was reinstated. The previous edition of National T20, which featured six sides, was won by Sindh who clinched their maiden title after defeating defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by eight wickets. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lost out on securing a hat-trick of titles after winning both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 editions.