March 26, 2014
The Laureus Spirit of Sport Award has been presented to the Afghanistan Cricket Team.
The rapid development of cricket in Afghanistan had been signalled by the country competing in the last two World Twenty20s. But securing a place in the World Cup, the flagship event of the international cricket calendar to be played next year in Australia and New Zealand, was a cause for special celebration.
Cricket’s history in Afghanistan is thought to have started with the game being played by British troops stationed in Kabul in 1839. However, unlike in so many other countries, no lasting legacy was left by the British and it would be more than a century before cricket returned.
It became popular amongst Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the 1990s, and cricket has continued to develop in Afghanistan during years of tremendous change within the country. It is now the fastest growing sport in Afghanistan and, with hundreds of thousands of players and supporters, claims to stand as the largest peaceful movement there.
The Asian Cricket Council has described Afghanistan as the “rising star of Asian cricket”. And the International Cricket Council said: “Afghanistan can now rightly consider itself as one of the leading Affiliate and Associate nations.”
Afghanistan’s success on the pitch has, indeed, captured the imagination of the whole cricketing world. The enthusiasm for the game shown especially by young players, often against almost insurmountable odds in terms of pitches and facilities, is a story being told again and again.
The majority of these players are young Afghans from poor families who grew up in refugee camps and small villages. Some had rarely travelled beyond their homes until they began to play cricket.
The only common factor amongst them all was their passion for the game and their dream of seeing Afghanistan playing at the international level. That dream is now a reality.
The Awards were announced in seven categories. The winners are:
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Sebastian Vettel
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Missy Franklin
Laureus World Team of the Year: Bayern Munich
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Marc Márquez
Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Rafael Nadal
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Marie Bochet
Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Jamie Bestwick
There were two additional Awards: the Laureus Spirit of Sport Award was presented to the Afghanistan Cricket Team and the Laureus Sport for Good Award was presented to Magic Bus, the sports-based community project in India.