IOC monitors support for women’s cricket in Afghanistan ahead of LA28

 – Gudstory

IOC monitors support for women’s cricket in Afghanistan ahead of LA28 – Gudstory

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Will the International Olympic Committee allow the Afghan men’s cricket team to participate in the 2028 Los Angeles Games in the absence of a women’s team? IOC President Thomas Bach said the governing body would continue to “closely monitor” the access and support women get to play sport in the war-torn country, which has been under Taliban rule since August 2021.

The Afghanistan issue was raised by Bach on Monday at a press conference in Mumbai, just after IOC members voted in favor of T20 cricket appearing at the Los Angeles Games five years later. As part of the presentation, Los Angeles Local Organizing Committee officials stressed the importance of gender equality in the Games while recommending cricket along with baseball/softball, lacrosse, and flag football as team sports. During its presentation to LA28, the ICC also highlighted inclusivity as a key factor.

Afghanistan is the only full-member country that does not have a women’s cricket team, despite it being a basic criterion for ICC membership. Afghanistan achieved full member status in 2017 on the basis that the country would create pathways for women to play representative cricket. However, cultural sensitivities of the time meant that progress was slow. In 2020, the ACB created a pool of 25 contract women cricketers, but 22 of them moved to Australia after the Taliban takeover.

An ICC working group, led by Vice Chairman Imran Khawaja, met with Taliban officials to discuss the situation and the ICC recommended that dialogue should continue instead of punishing the Asian Central Bank in the hope of finding a solution. The ICC Board, which met in July, broadly agreed with this recommendation, while maintaining the ultimate goal of helping women play cricket in Afghanistan.

The International Olympic Committee has not yet allowed Afghan athletes to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, and the country’s National Olympic Committee has warned that it risks suspension if women’s sports continue to be restricted. This point was echoed by James Macleod, Head of Olympic Solidarity and National Olympic Committee Relations at the IOC. McLeod is communicating with the Taliban’s director of physical education and sports to deal with what he described as a “very complex situation.”

“We have had ongoing talks and discussions with the Afghan government authorities since the regime change,” MacLeod told IOC members on Sunday, the first day of the Mumbai Games. “We insist on the removal of current government barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing sporting opportunities in the country. The IOC Executive Board took a very clear position on this matter in December 2022, and we have confirmed this position with government authorities on numerous occasions, including “That was last week, when we met with the new Director of Sport and Physical Education to confirm the IOC’s position on this.”

McLeod said that the International Olympic Committee noticed a “slight change” with the participation of Afghan female athletes in the Asian Games in Hangzhou (China) recently. “There has been some progress, a little bit of progress. We saw that at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, where the Afghan delegation consisted of 83 athletes, including 17 females in three different sports. This also included a male and female co-flag bearer. “

All five of Afghanistan’s medals at the Asian Games were won by male athletes, but women – all of whom reside abroad – competed in volleyball, athletics and cycling. McLeod said the performance of Afghan women is “certainly recognized within the country and highly regarded,” which has facilitated talks with the Taliban.

Bach on Monday highlighted the model of the Asian Games and said it showed “a significant proportion, if not a majority, of female representation”, which is encouraging. “So we are monitoring this very closely. Our member in Afghanistan, Samira Ashghari, has also encouraged us to continue our support for the female athletes and their entourage in Afghanistan and for those who do not live in Afghanistan. The same request that I received from one of the members of the Afghan national team, from one of the members, when I met In Hangzhou at the Asian Games.

Bach noted the state of progress and that the efforts of the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee will determine the IOC’s position on cricket at the Los Angeles Olympics. “It is in this broader context that cricket will be considered. Ultimately, there will have to be a decision on the status of the National Olympic Committee, as such, [and] Representing the team.”

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo


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