In a war-ravaged nation gradually finding its feet, sports in Afghanistan is a vocation pursued by few.
Though the country has a long way to go as far as women’s rights are concerned, Afghanistan’s sportswomen are beginning to understand the value of sports and games.
“Sports has opened up a new phase of life in the country,” says Maihan Wali, the captain of the Afghanistan women’s basketball team.
Initially, the team was supposed to come to Chennai for the Asia women’s basketball championship, but couldn’t make it due to economic and social problems, according to Abdul Saboor Azizi, President, Afghanistan Basketball Federation.
The situation being so volatile, it was decided to send only the skipper and the ABF President instead.
“When you go out of your home, you are not sure whether you will return safely. Even when we were boarding the aircraft on September 15, we heard that there was a bomb blast somewhere outside the airport,” says Wali.
Wali says Afghanistan has the potential to excel in sports and all they need is exposure. Thirty years of civil war has taken a toll on the country’s health and it’ll take time to rebuild.
“Sports is a luxury for some. But I believe things are changing,” says the 18-year-old. “We have women’s National teams in volleyball, football, hockey, boxing, kick-boxing, badminton, taekwondo and handball. We haven’t played many international tournaments. Maybe once we get it, we can witness the change,” she adds.
In fact, Afghanistan Basketball Federation in order to develop the sport has included states like Herat, Samangan, Kandahar and Mazar-e- Sheriff, , says Azizi.
In a meeting held here on Wednesday, where all the representatives of the Asian countries took part, it was decided to divide Asia into two zones where Afghanistan will be grouped with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan among others and countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, will be in another group.
“Nothing was finalised. It is still in the discussion stage,” reveals Azizi.
Praise for Geetu
Watching teams play in the Asia women’s championship has been a learning experience for Wali. “The Indian team is good. I like Geetu Anna Jose a lot. She plays really well,” says Wali, a high school student.
There is a possibility of the Afghanistan team visiting India to play a few matches in the near future. “We will discuss it with the Basketball Federation of India and decide on our next course,” she says.
Despite the situation in Afghanistan, Wali says: “Afghanistan Basketball Federation is trying its best.”