Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 17th, 2019

Sports: A strategic Opportunity for Nation Building in Afghanistan

Afghanistan National Taekwondo Team won two Gold Medals in Korea Open Int’l Taekwondo Championships. Farzad Mansuri won the first gold medal and Nesar Ahmad abdulrahizay won the second gold medal for Afghanistan.
This victory brought much awaited happiness, as always our champions put a smile on the lips of the sad people of the country stuck in prolonged conflict, admitting the quote of King of Bhutan who said that “gross national happiness is more important than gross national product and therefore happiness takes precedence over economic prosperity in worst of financial crises”.
Nation building is a must for Afghanistan. Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. According to Harris Mylonas, “Legitimate authority in modern national states is connected to popular rule, to majorities. Nation-building is the process through which these majorities are constructed.”
Afghanistan suffers severely from the lack of national identity that all the ethnic groups accept it based on a consensus. Afghanistan nation’s builders have not been able to take initiatives to develop the national community through government programs, including national content mass schooling. The main ingredients of nation building, namely using of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and equal economic growth have nearly been absent in the initiatives on this matter so far. According to Columbia University political scientist Andreas Wimmer, three factors tend to determine the success of nation-building over the long-run: “the early development of civil-society organizations, the rise of a state capable of providing public goods evenly across a territory, and the emergence of a shared medium of communication.
Sports as the “shared medium of communication”
Research findings show that international sports events, like the FIFA World Cup, regional and national contests, have the ability to bring together people from neighboring and beyond neighboring countries in a spirit of fun, togetherness and, ultimately, peace. Another, study on the role of sport in fostering social integration among different ethnic groups in South African schools showed that several factors contributed to the use of sport being successful in bringing about exchange and building relationships between different groups, including sport’s non-verbal means of communication; sport as a means to engage in collective experience and establish direct physical contact; and sport’s ability to transcend class divisions.
As such, sports moments can transform broader society for the better. It closes the gap between different walks of the society and helps them focus on one shared goal. For instance, Nilson Mandela’s skillful promotion of the rugby team as a vehicle for racial healing is a remarkable instance of the symbolic power sports can hold to move people together for the common good. Building on such success stories and good lessons, Afghanistan can take the necessary measures and initiatives to have a holistic and inclusive approach to sport as a strategic means of nation building in the country. Sports experts hold that, Afghan government in some cases has not acted in an integrated manner to support sport national teams. Such approaches not only prevent sport to play a critical role in nation building in the country, but would lead to more divisions among the ethnic groups of Afghanistan. For example, the way the Afghan government has supported the cricket and soccer teams have totally been different. The different supporting mechanisms of sports teams can further divide the ethnic divides our war torn country. Therefore, politicians should not use sport for their political objectives because it only exacerbates ethnic tensions in the country.
In a nutshell, sports is one of the best tools for fostering social integration among different ethnic groups in a multi-ethnic society and brings about exchange and building relationships between different groups and can transcend ethnic divisions of the society. It also can positively contribute to strengthening national pride and forming a cohesive national identity. Considering such immense impacts of sport on nation building, it is vital for the Afghan government not only shall provide a balanced support to national sport teams but also ensure balanced participation as well.