A New Sport Comes to Afghanistan


Photo by Ken Paprocki

by Abdullah Qazi
September 24, 2008

Grab a newspaper or browse through your favorite international news web site and you will find plenty of bad news coming from Afghanistan. On any given day, you will find news about bombings, abductions, and abuse of women and children. Luckily, not all the news coming out of Afghanistan is bad, especially when it comes to sports news.

First it is worth mentioning that Afghanistan's cricket team is doing so well that it has gotten the attention and excitement of Afghans all over the world. The last time I played cricket was when I was 6 years old and my family was in Pakistan. I no longer remember the rules or how to play, but now I find myself reading up on the subject, and watching cricket videos on YouTube.

Rohullah Nikpai's historical win of a bronze medal in taekwondo in Beijing this summer is another source of great excitement for Afghans everywhere. Nikpai made history because his win was the first time an Afghan ever won an Olympic medal. Hopefully, 4 years from now, he brings home a gold medal. Fortunately, for me and other Afghan sports fans, the excitement will not end here.

Tuesday evening, I had just arrived home from work and decided to check my email. In my inbox, I saw an an email from Mr. Scott McCook, he had written to me about water polo in Afghanistan. Mr. McCook is the Director of Development and Fundraising for a not-for-profit organization called the Dream of Afghanistan Athletics. According to Mr. McCook's email, the organization was created to provide financial support to Afghanistan Water Polo - the governing body of water polo in Afghanistan created to promote and develop the sport.

Perhaps it's not an oxymoron, per se, but the terms Afghanistan, and water polo seemed odd to me in the beginning, especially since Afghanistan is a land-locked country with perhaps less than 20% of the population being swimmers, and not to mention that there are very few clean pools in the country. Then again, Afghans do love to play sports, all sorts of sports, from archery to wushu, so why not water polo?

Mr. McCook was also kind of enough to send me copies of his press releases. One was about Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee sanctioning men's water polo as a new national sport, and another about the committee naming Jeremy Piasecki as the head coach and director of Afghanistan's National Men's Water Polo Team. The goal is for the team to raise enough funds to be able to travel abroad to train properly. Ultimately the goal is to send the team to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Imagine the team bringing home a gold medal for Afghanistan in water polo!

Even if they don't win a medal, Afghanistan has come a long way. I still remember the days when I read about the Taliban banning various different sports and using our national stadiums and sports parks to carry out their ruthless punishments and executions. I for one, am very grateful to people like Mr. McCook and Mr. Piasecki for stepping up and making a difference in the lives of ordinary Afghans. Now, thanks to Mr. McCook, I will be reading up on water polo and watching videos on YouTube.

On the Web: http://afghanistanwaterpolo.com/

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