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Sport plays key role in Afghanistan progress

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Sport plays key role in Afghanistan progress

 Nowadays however, the new generations in many fields - particularly in sports - have changed the image of the war-ravaged Afghanistan and have presented a rebirth of Afghanistan. Any positive contribution in this generation would be a smart investment and further boost hopes for a brighter future.

Despite many political, economic and social challenges, the Afghan youth have made a great contribution to the development of Afghanistan. They have promoted the new image of Afghanistan to the world through sports and education. I was surprised and felt proud when I met non-Afghans during my trips this year who were talking about Afghan sports.
While I was traveling from Qatar to Japan, a young British student was sitting next to me. After greeting, he asked me “where are you from?” “Afghanistan,” I responded with dread. I was apprehensive at the possibility that his only knowledge of Afghanistan may have been associated with war and terror, and the stereotypical image of how radical Afghans are portrayed. Over the last few decades, we had nothing to represent to the world except violence and we got quite enough fame from that.
Conversely, he began talking about how glorious Afghan cricketers are. He named a few Afghan players who were playing in MCC in the UK. He was a great fan of Hamid Hassan and discussed how beautifully Hamid is bowling. I reacted with proud cheers and energy, “Yeah, we have so many talented cricketers who have surprised the Cricket World by their clinch rising to the Asia and World Cup”. Overall, it was all about cricket from Qatar to Tokyo and to my joy and surprise, nothing about war and terror.
Similarly, while visiting Kyrgyzstan, I met an artist from India who had participated in an art exhibition in Bishkek. We had lunch together in an old typical Russian restaurant, at the same time we were talking about the SAFF Championship. Afterwards, he discussed the performance of some of the Afghan soccer players who had been playing in the Indian Super leagues and also, the possibility of Afghan cricket players to play in the India Premier League (IPL). However, I expected that he might talk about the Taliban and Pakistan, but he didn’t broach that subject at any point.
 It was all about sports and Afghanistan’s achievements in sport.
When Afghanistan won the SAFF championship and were subsequently granted the FIFA fair play award, most of the people around the world were surprised and applauded the Afghan team. It was one of our lifetime’s proudest moments which brought tears of joys to our eyes. 
It was not just tears of joy, having won matches, but playing as a nation with pride and dignity, representing the new image of a country, bringing smiles to the faces of a suffering nation, and changing the minds of the people about Afghanistan. 
These achievements prove that sports are more than simply entertainment in Afghanistan. Sport has become an effective medium to promote peace, unity and tolerance among different ethnic groups.
The youth who did the nation proud, were playing on dusty streets with their own handmade balls, and the people were looking at them as stray boys. I remember that some of the Afghan national team players were weaving carpets; collecting and selling pieces of metals that were left over from exploded bombs and many other odd jobs to help their families. 
And still, they are facing many hardships on a daily basis. Despite all these, they made us proud and united us forever. They have brought about the rebirth of a state in the heart of Asia with a new vision and dignity.
In the last few years, nothing has made Afghanistan as proud as what our sporting heroes have done. No politicians could have represented the new image of Afghanistan as the youth have done through sports and education. From the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) title, to the FIFA fair play award, it is the first trophy of its kind in Afghanistan’s history. The qualification of Afghan Cricket Team for the World Cup 2015 and the rapid development in this field made a huge impression in the cricket world with the new records.
In just a few years, Afghanistan has climbed from zero to hero and brought numbers of championships to the sports nation. These achievements sparked the scenes of jubilation all over the country. 
The people were dancing, singing and crying with joy on the streets for every single trophy. It was all incredible scenes for this long suffering nation.
For the Afghan youth, the hopes of progress and development are not a faint dream but a reality that will come true, if given the chance. Afghanistan’s populations under the age of 35 make up about 75 percent and under the age of 25 reaches to 68 percent. It’s a very young country, where the young generation could be a catalyst for hope and change. This generation would not allow the rise of radicalism again and would never give up fighting for freedom.
The youth should have been given top priority and a larger role in national unity government. The government should focus on providing and modernizing the educational systems as well as increasing the opportunities for the youth to study abroad. Investing in youth, particularly, in sports and education pays off as the Afghan youth have proven through sports further helping to portray the emergence of a new Afghanistan to the rest of the world.
Afghan youth are the future of Afghanistan and have so much to contribute to the country. Consequently, the youth-focused policies and the right investment should be at the heart of Afghan policy and must be included in the national investment strategies. Lack of investment on the young generation and keeping them isolated from the political process would have negative results on the economic, social and political process.
 Failure to invest in youth would lead to the failure in government and increase the risk of losing generations.
Waheed Rahimi