Sharjah: As someone who has worked his way up through the cricketing ranks of his country, Raees Khan Ahmadzai is never short of interesting anecdotes.

The 34-year-old former Afghanistan captain — currently assistant coach to Venkatesh Prasad of Nangarhar Leopards in the ongoing Afghanistan Premier League (APL) — recalled how a copy of the Gulf News came in handy at the right for a national cause.

“I was travelling via Dubai on an Emirates airline flight after winning the inaugural 2007 ACC Twenty20 Cup held in Kuwait. I picked up a copy of the Gulf News and went straight to the Sports section. I was so stunned on seeing an article on ‘The New Afghan Army’ that I hid the Sports section in my pocket,” Raees recalled.

“Those were tough times for cricket in Afghanistan. We used to spend everything from our own pockets as we were not getting enough support from any side. A few weeks later, the then president Hamid Karzai wanted to meet the national team first before taking a decision on allowing state funding for cricket.

“I still remember that I pulled out this old newspaper and showed President Karzai this Gulf News article on The New Afghan Army. He was not only surprised, but also convinced on what we had achieved. Since then, we have been officially getting [a] government grant for cricket,” he added.