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Resilience beyond borders: Sports teams that thrived even in instability 

By Radhya Comar, January 9 2024—

Sending delegates to an international sporting event takes loads of logistical planning. Countries have to budget each expense from meals to transportation to accommodations. These expenses have to be accounted not just for the athletes but for their entourage as well. Trainers, dieticians, assistants and family members often travel with athletes to each international competition. The logistics and planning, however, do not just start when the athlete and their entourage land in the host country. Sending delegates can include months of planning to ensure the necessary paperwork and other requirements are fulfilled. All of these tasks and more require an efficient sporting body, effective political bureaucracy and capital. Managing to send an international delegation while possessing all three still presents a challenging task. When a country lacks these and is in a state of political instability, sports is often the last priority. Yet, this has not stopped several countries from making sure their athletes get a chance to showcase their skills and represent their countries. 

Since the Taliban came back into power, the Islamic fundamentalist group has suspended Women’s rights across the country. Afghan women have been banned from working, teaching and attending both secondary and post-secondary institutions. They are also unable to leave their homes without a male chaperone and must be fully covered. The return of the Taliban has also resulted in disastrous economic consequences for the country. Since the takeover, an estimated 700,000 jobs have been lost and more than 90 per cent of the population is plagued by food insecurity. This has obviously had consequences for sports in the country, especially cricket which is the most popular by far. Not only is the Afghan Men’s cricket team burdened with funding problems, the country is also unable to host international events. The situation was worsened when the Australian Men’s Cricket team withdrew from a series of scheduled matches with Afghanistan to show solidarity with the women of Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the team was able to compete in the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, even beating the defending champions from England. 

This is, of course, not the first time a national team has emerged from political instability. Having won the Olympic gold medal four consecutive times as British India, the Indian officials were looking forward to winning a fifth for their newly independent nation. However, this independence resulted in the formation of Pakistan in 1947. This was to separately house the former colony’s two religious majorities. Thus, several Muslim players who played central roles in dominating the past olympic games decided to play for Pakistan. Fragmented, the Indian team had lost several key players. This resulted in a haphazard selection process which delayed the team’s training process and their arrival in London for the 1948 games. Despite being the first Olympic appearance for every player on the team, they were able to clinch the gold medal nonetheless. 

From 1948 to 2023, the continued perseverance of athletes in the face of political instability underscored a commitment to sports that transcends domestic turmoil. From Cricket to Field Hockey these teams, like numerous others, were able to overcome significant challenges to represent their countries. However, their triumphs are so much more than just overcoming bureaucratic hurdles to reach the national stage. Rather, they represent the ability of athletes and sports to thrive even in the face of adversity.

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