Angry Afghan cricket officials have accused Hong Kong immigration chiefs of insulting their nation by banning them from this year's Hong Kong sixes tournament.
The chief executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, Nasimullah Danish, said yesterday: 'Do the officials think that our cricketers are terrorists or suicide bombers?'
He described the decision, revealed in Friday's South China Morning Post, as an insult to the whole nation and called on the International Cricket Council, the sport's governing body, to intervene.
The Hong Kong Cricket Association is also upset that Asia's fastest rising second-tier team will not be coming to the Karp Group Hong Kong Sixes on October 27-28.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board said: 'Cricket is the most popular sport in the country and the players are hailed as national heroes and as ambassadors who show the world that there is more to Afghanistan than bombs and war.'
The Immigration Department says that Afghanistan is on a blacklist of countries whose athletes are personae non grata as they would not be able to get employment visas.
All overseas athletes taking part in events in Hong Kong have to get an employment visa.
Danish said: 'We find it hard to accept that this is really an employment visa issue, and we would ask the Hong Kong Immigration Department to reconsider. Our teams have been all over the world in the past few years, including countries like China, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland. We can't believe that the Hong Kong immigration authorities have made this decision.'
The HKCA's general manager, Danny Lai, who had first revealed that initial verbal enquiries to the Immigration Department had been unsuccessful, said: 'What the Immigration Department told us was that unless it was an Olympic qualifying event or something similar to that at an Asian level, they couldn't give visas to Afghanistan.'