Where: Kandahar, Afghanistan
July 22, 2000: It was the strangest football match that the Pakistani team had ever played. There they were in the city of Kandahar, in Afghanistan, for a match with a local team. Every sportsperson knows that home teams always get a lot more support than the visiting team, and is even prepared for it. But none of the Pakistani players were quite prepared for what happened to them on the football ground.
It happened at the fag end of the three-match tour. Bearded policemen raided the field, arrested the team members and later shaved their heads for daring to wear shorts on Afghan soil. There was a stampede as spectators panicked, and several got injured. The Pakistani team spent a night in jail.
All this happened because by wearing shorts the players showed their legs. And that is going against the strict dress code of the Taliban government, says a report in ‘The Hindustan Times’. Afghan players themselves play in baggy trousers and long-sleeved jerseys.
The Afghan Sports Minister has since apologised for the event. The government even asked the players to replay the match. But the players refused and just headed home.
Few sports events are played in the country. And even if they are, spectators cannot clap or cheer while watching them.
The Taliban government which came to power more than four years ago, has very harsh rules about the way people should lead their lives, especially women. They say that their religion Islam tells people to live like this. Men and women cannot be seen together in public unless they happen to be related. Women have to stay indoors and that means girls cannot go to schools, women cannot go to work or even to hospitals where there are male doctors. They also have to be fully covered from head to foot. Men cannot trim their beards, wear shorts or roll up their sleeves in public.
The Taliban’s views are opposed by many Muslims within Afghanistan and outside. And the Taliban is determined to fight and control these people.
The funny thing is that Pakistan, too, is an Islamic state. That is, the government has declared that it will rule according to the principles laid down in their religion. And it is one of the few countries that has recognised the Taliban government as the proper government of Afghanistan. Pakistan has also trained many Taliban fighters in its camps. And yet, its own players got a taste of the Taliban’s bitter medicine.
The incident has angered Pakistanis who accuse the Taliban of insulting the players. The act is against Islamic traditions of hospitality, they say. Who is a more faithful follower of Islam – Pakistan or Afghanistan?