Little Kabul in Delhi divided: for some, cricket is the ‘Taliban sport’, for others a few smashed phones as Afghanistan loses

Just days before Afghanistan’s match against India in Delhi, Afghans in the capital miss their roots. At the postgraduate men’s hostel on the North Campus of the University of Delhi, Haseebullah Siddiqi, who fled Afghanistan in August this year before the Taliban regime took power, was receiving instructions on the regulations from his mother

Haseebullah, an actor in Punjabi films, prepares a feast for his childhood friend Rahmanullah Gurbaz, an Afghan goalkeeper.

“We grew up in Khost and played cricket together. I met him during the IPL earlier this year. It’s the best thing I can do for my brother,” he says with emotion. He drops his phone and curses in Pashto.

While Haseebullah puts his disassembled phone back together, his friend Mohammad Rafi shares the story. Rafi is also an actor and played small roles in Akshay Kumar’s Housefull 3. “He hates it when Afghanistan loses the match. He smashed his phone multiple times when Afghanistan lost a tight match against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup.”

In another room of the hostel, Nazamudin Asar is drenched in sweat after two hours of playing badminton. Sipping Afghan tea in a 10-by-10-foot room, he squeals, “Are there any tickets available for the India vs Afghanistan match? I’ve been trying for several days. He smiles and adds, “muskil hoga nahi (It will be difficult, right?)”.

Nazamudin Asar is doing his PhD at the University of Delhi and has been in India for nine years. (Special solution)

Asar (28) comes from Kandahar, has been living in India for nine years and is in the final stages of writing his doctoral thesis on the trade route between India and Afghanistan. “I love badminton. I fell in love with the sport after moving to Delhi in 2014. But cricket in the country became popular thanks to this team. It’s an emotion, a feeling that provides entertainment for people who don’t know what the future holds for them.

Little Kabul

Mohammad Usman, a second-year political science student at Dayal Singh College, helps his father run a grocery store in the Bhogal area of ​​Janpura, also known as mini Kabul, and can’t wait to catch a glimpse of his idol Mohammad Nabi. However, he is not sure whether his Abbu will allow him to go and watch the match.

“If Abbu agrees, I will go to watch the match. My friends are coming. But I don’t think I’ll be able to go. I am the oldest in my family. My younger siblings have exams and I will have to stay here in the workshop,” he says with a smile.

Usman’s family moved to India from Jalalabad in 2016 after, they say, his father received constant threats from the Taliban. Since then, he has managed to study and also help his father set up a shop. He wants to become an IAS officer.

A burger shop run by Raissuidin Haidri and Mohammad Almas in Lajpat Nagar. (Express Photo: Pratyush Raj)

“It is easy for us to combine work and study. We are pathanas, we never get tired. It’s written in the DNA. Once we return to Afghanistan, we must learn quickly. You need to take care of yourself and your family. Political science is an easy subject (laughter). I want to do my masters from JNU or Jamia and then appear for public service exams,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes.

Usman loves Indian cricket and cricket. He is a fan of Rishabh Pant because he hits sixes on demand and loves Virat Kohli’s aggression.

“It’s a Taliban sport.”

Amidst the excitement of seeing your stars in flesh and blood, there are also mixed feelings. Musa Khan, who runs a dry fruit shop with Haji Zahir, calls it a Taliban sport and has no intention of going there or supporting them.

“I hate cricket. It’s a Taliban sport. I love football and swimming. I was in my third year of engineering studies in Kabul. Our university was managed by the South Korean government. In 2021, I was supposed to go to Seoul for an internship. Now I’m in India, without a visa, running a shop, with my future in the dark,’ he says.

On August 15, 2021, Javed Lala was on a plane to Amsterdam to present his paper, “Restoring Democracy in Afghanistan in the Face of American Policy Failure.” It was only when he landed and opened his phone that he learned about the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Since then, he has been living in Amsterdam and working in an Afghan restaurant, as the Indian government does not issue visas to Afghan citizens.

Rohid Hafzili is from Kandahar and currently sells bread and saffron in Afghanistan in Lajpat Nagar. ((Express photo by Pratyush Raj)

“I have one year left to complete and submit my Ph.D. My professors at DU tried hard but it was in vain. The Indian government does not give us visas,” Javed tells an Amsterdam newspaper. “And there are thousands more like me.”

He explains why cricket was never a sport in Afghanistan and how it thrived in his country.

“Cricket is a Taliban sport. This has never been popular in Afghanistan. Have you seen the movie Khuda Gawah (starring Amitabh Bachhan and Sridevi). The film depicts the sport of “Buzkashi”, in which horse riders fight for a goat. It’s our national sport. It’s kind of a battle of the tribes to see who is better. Yes, with the Russian invasion, football also became popular, but cricket was never a sport.

“You see all the cricketers. They grew up in refugee camps in Peshawar. The Afghanistan Cricket Board was founded during the first Taliban regime. People in the British media were going crazy over the fact that they were still playing cricket. Boss, it’s their baby.

“Apart from tribal sports and football, hockey was a big thing in the 1970s. This happened thanks to Zahir Shah, the last ruler of the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Helmand is currently the most dangerous place in Afghanistan, but it was once a hockey center. They used to have a girls’ team. Zahir Shah studied in Dehradun and often played hockey. That’s why it was a popular sport. Now it is an authoritarian state like Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he says.

Raissuidin Haidri was a lawyer of the Kabul Supreme Court. He has been stuck in India for two years and runs a burger restaurant in Lajpat Nagar with a friend. (Express Photo: Pratyush Raj)

A lawyer selling hamburgers

Raissuidin Haidri runs a burger shop in Lajpat Nagar with his friend Mohammad Almas.

Haidri was a Kabul High Court lawyer who was in India during the Taliban takeover. He never saw his son, who was born a month later in Kabul.

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“I have twin daughters and one son. I haven’t seen them for two years. I’m struck here. I came here for a law workshop and now I sell burgers. You think I care about cricket?

Meanwhile, Almas was a journalist in Herat and left Afghanistan in 2018. He has not spoken to his parents and is worried about their safety because his village was hit hardest by the earthquake that hit his country on Sunday.

“I spoke to a relative; he said my father and mother were safe,” he says. “I watched the Afghanistan-Ireland match in Noida. It was fun and the tickets were cheap. I’ll also try to get a black ticket on Wednesday. I love my country and I will support it throughout the World Cup,” he hands the burger to the customer.

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