Nasir Andisha, the Afghan envoy in Australia, is looking forward to his national side play its first-ever ICC Cricket World Cup. The young diplomat hopes the world premiere cricketing competition will help give a positive face to Afghanistan often in the news because of wars and violence.
RFE/RL: How are the Afghans in Australia reacting to the fact that their country is able to play in the Cricket World Cup for the first time?
Nasir Andisha: Afghan generally, and especially in Australia and New Zealand, are very excited about these matches. They are enthusiastic about encouraging our national cricket team here and are proud of this moment. According to our information, more than 1,000 Afghans have bought tickets to watch their country's matches and are impatiently waiting for the Afghan team to arrive.
RFE/RL: Afghan cricketers have repeatedly said they would like play with permanent members of the International Cricket Council. Do you see this happening?
Andisha: About holding matches with Australia, I must say that during the current Afghan year, after our mutual efforts, the Afghan national cricket team was able to come to Australia and New Zealand for training and get accustomed to the environment and cricket pitches and grounds here. In addition, they played a number of friendly matches with Australian and New Zealand’s national teams.
RFE/RL: What chances does the Afghan cricket team of winning the Cricket World Cup?
Andisha: I am sure our national cricket team realizes the importance of the first match. I am hopeful our team will be the winner of that. It would be a great and historic victory. I think Afghanistan’s team has a chance of going further in the matches by winning the first match.
RFE/RL: What impressions do Australians there have of the Afghan cricket team?
Andisha: Australians have shown their support for the Afghan cricket team and have said they are looking forward to welcoming them to Australia. Another interesting thing is that some Australian politicians have told me that if Afghanistan were to play against England, they would support the Afghan team.
RFE/RL: Are you in contact with the Afghan Cricket Board, do you plan to encourage and support the Afghan cricket team in any way?
Andisha: We are in contact with the Afghan Cricket Board, and we have planned two programs. The first program is, together with Afghans living in Australia, about encouraging and supporting the Afghan cricket team. Secondly, we have invited a number of people from among the authorities, diplomats, representatives of Afghan communities and Australian cricket fans to come and meet our team members.
RFE/RL: How can the Cricket World Cup be used as an opportunity for the Afghan public diplomacy?
Andisha: It’s a very important opportunity for the embassy to further Afghan public diplomacy. The recent history of war-torn countries shows that sports ─ especially games involving teams such as football, cricket, rugby etc. ─ have the capacity to elicit feelings of patriotism, patience, acceptance of each other and brotherhood in people.
Therefore, the presence of the Afghan team at the Cricket World Cup’s matches should be at least seen from two angles. First, the fact that the Afghan cricket team qualified to participate in the World Cup is a historic moment for Afghanistan and a very important achievement for the country. Secondly, according to estimates of the International Cricket Board, more than 1 billion people from 182 countries will be watching the matches held in Australia and New Zealand.
This is why it’s a very important opportunity to show the world a new face and a new picture of Afghan society through our national cricket team. These matches are the greatest chance for Afghanistan public diplomacy. By using this opportunity, our message of public diplomacy will be: If Afghans have an opportunity, we have a lot of potential and talent to prove ourselves internationally, and we are always ready to compete.