China’s cricket diplomacy with Pakistan, Afghanistan, hosts 3-nation event | Exclusive
China played Pakistan and Afghanistan in the first-ever triangular youth cricket tournament in Shandong province’s Jinan city last week in a competition backed by the Chinese foreign ministry. Cricket is being used as a medium to enhance ties between the three countries, the ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) told HT.
The tournament was held within weeks after the foreign ministers of the three countries decided to have one at the 3rd China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue held in Islamabad in September.
It was the first time that the Chinese government had directly organised a stand-alone cricket tournament involving foreign teams.
The day-long tournament on October 19 saw nearly 40 players from the three sides take on each other in the shorter format of the game.
The 10 games were held in a “friendly atmosphere” and neither points nor ranks were awarded at the end.
The last game saw Chinese players joining players from Pakistan and Afghanistan in two separate teams, and play against each other.
China’s General Administration of Sports, the co-organiser, took into consideration the sensitivities of Pakistan and Afghan players and fielded only male umpires for the matches.
The MFA told HT was that the tournament was the result of the consensus reached by the three foreign ministers last month.
“The organisation of the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Youth Cricket Friendship competition was the consensus reached at the third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan foreign ministers’ meeting which was held in Islamabad in September 2019,” the MFA said in a written statement to HT.
“It was jointly organised by the ministry of foreign affairs and the General Administration of Sports in China. This is a people-to-people and cultural exchange activity with cricket as a medium to enhance mutual understanding and friendship among the youth of three countries,” the statement said.
Cricket is not known to be popular in China but the MFA statement said thousands of local supporters cheered the teams during the games.
“Thousands of local young cricket fans attended the match and had a warm and friendly interaction with the players,” it said.
A local news report said the young players “demonstrated the gentleman culture and spirit of cricket with their actions”.
The report, quoting Chinese officials, added that the “friendly competition was based on the “Belt and Road Initiative”, carrying out cricket diplomacy, striving to build a model of multi-level cricket cooperation among the three countries, (and) deepening trilateral friendship…”
“The three countries youth cricket friendship match is an activity held within the framework of the dialogue mechanism between the three foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the statement said.
“No other country was invited to participate,” the MFA statement added.