Afghanistan is to get its first national women's cricket team, the sport's governing body in the country said on Thursday, announcing plans for it to compete in an international tournament next year.
"This development is so exciting for our young women cricketers and their families and supporters," said Diana, women's cricket development officer at the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), in a statement.
The women's cricket uniform will include a headscarf or hijab and is modelled on the one worn by the United Arab Emirates' women's side, it added.
Women's participation in sport in Afghanistan has increased since the 2001 fall of the hardline Islamist Taliban. Sprinter-turned-lawmaker Robina Jalali made it to the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008, competing in a hijab or traditional Muslim headscarf.
Football and basketball teams have sprung up in some urban areas, but women's full involvement in sports is still lacking -- as in other areas of society -- and in many rural areas women rarely leave their homes.
The ACB said the team's participation in next February's short-format Twenty20 tournament in Kuwait would be the first time Afghan women will have taken part in cricket matches abroad.
More than 100 young women currently play the game in the capital Kabul and three have recently attended umpire training courses. The ACB has also set up coaching sessions to attract more girls and young women to the sport.
Coaching takes place in four girls' schools, a "women only" park and an orphanage in Kabul, the organisation said.
A women's tournament will be held to select the national side for the competition in the Gulf state, which is organised by the Asian Cricket Council.
The ACB said it has plans to build a cricket academy for women in Kabul that would provide the "culturally appropriate situation for women cricketers".
"Women's cricket provides an opportunity for Afghan young women to be fit and have healthier and more active lives," said ACB chief executive Hamid Shinwari.
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