One player of the Afghanistan Under-19 team that finished fourth in the recently concluded ICC Under 19 World Cup 2022 and three staffers have reportedly decided not to board the flight back home and are staying put in England in a bid to seek asylum in the UK. As per a report in 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”.
Speaking to Cricinfo, Former Afghanistan player Raees Ahmadzai, who was also the head coach of the team during the World Cup, urged the player and the others to rethink their decision and return back home. He also revealed that his messages to all four of them have received no reply. “I told them Afghanistan needs them. Sports and cricket have 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,” Ahmadzai told the news website.
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, barring the four in question. On Monday, the players and other staff members were felicitated by the ACB. The transit visa for the four will expire on February 8. Cricinfo further reports that it is unconfirmed whether the four will seek asylum.
This is not the first time 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 with two of them going on to represent Canada at the international level. However, this is the first instance since the Taliban took over the country in August 2022.
The Afghanistan team had nearly missed the Under 19 World Cup in the West Indies owing to visa-related problems that had led to cancellations of two of their warm-up games ahead of the tournament.