KABUL, Afghanistan — Some of the children walked for two hours. Others paid about 30 cents for the bus ride. Some left home in their faded blue uniforms, backpacks and all, but skipped school rather than risk missing anything.
Now they are here, at the Kabul International Cricket Ground, among a crowd of roughly 300 who are watching the final of a local league, with a $15,000 prize up for grabs. It is 75 degrees in the intense sun of early afternoon.
Most of the older people in the crowd sit in the stands, in the shade of pop-up marquees. But not these children. They are pressed against the blue railing, their eyes intent above its spearlike tips, and just below the razor wire that is supposed to prevent anyone from entering the field.
They are not just cricket fans — they are fanatics, commentator-mimics, encyclopedias of often-imagined trivia about their favorite players. And just curious, demanding children. For hours, they remain intent on every play, almost immediately returning to the railing each time they are chased up the stands by a Taser-carrying guard.
Many of the players in front of them are stars: celebrities propelled by the game from villages and dusty refugee camps to the highest national, and even international, stage. So when the fans demand, they oblige. This is the love they play for