Shahzada Masoud, Minister of Tribal Affairs and President of the Afghanistan Cricket Federation, spent time with us in Kuala Lumpur when he accompanied the national team during the ACC Trophy. A man of considerable dignity and charisma, with an evident passion for both cricket and his country, he carries the flag for Afghanistan cricket with pride. He is 43 and lives in Kabul.
“Mr. Karzai knows that whenever I am not at my desk, I am at the cricket ground.”
How did your interest in cricket start?
With thousands of our youngsters playing cricket in Pakistani camps during the wars of liberation, the game soon spread across the Afghan border and it immediately captured my interest when I first saw it in the 1980s. It’s a simple game: see ball-hit ball, but with many variations.
What is the appeal of cricket?
Cricket is a great sport. It teaches responsibility, teamwork and teaches the individual the importance of being at his best for the good of everyone else. Although most people think that cricket in Asia is only played in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it has come to Afghanistan in a big way and it is very popular here. I’m hoping that in the coming years cricket will move into the central Asian countries. I am pleased to see that Uzbekistan is showing an interest.
Are any of your children playing cricket?
Yes, I have four children and at the moment my eldest son is taking a deep interest in the game. He is nine.
How much of an interest in the game is shown by your fellow government officials?
They are aware of my situation and know when I am not attending official meetings and such it is because I am busy with cricket. Mr. Karzai knows this too and whenever I am not at my desk in Kabul they know I am at the cricket ground. I now have to give half of my time to cricket and half of it to various other government works. Up until lunch I am doing government work but as soon as I finish I’m off to the cricket academy.
Is cricket amongst the popular sports in Afghanistan?
Cricket may not have a long history in the country but the popularity of the sport amongst the young is certainly growing rapidly.
If Afghanistan were to ever win the ACC Trophy, what would it mean to the country?
For the ACC Trophy, there is a lot of coverage back home on the local channels as well as in the print media. If we were to win, the result would be a surge of interest in the media and also a great boost financially. We already have three major sponsors, Standard Chartered Bank, Kam Airlines and Roshan, a telecoms company. A victory would also almost surely mean that the government would take a larger interest and maybe even start building a stadium for cricket.
Next Page | “Many Afghans share a common heritage with people like Shahid Afridi who is a big hero.”