Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

When Sports Meet Politics

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When Sports Meet Politics

Afghanistan cherishes a remarkable precedent of successive wins and outstanding achievements in sporting fields. Afghan athletes with mal-nurtured infrastructure and bureaucratic hurdles have achievement the unthinkable in world stages. They are, indeed, the sole flag bearers of the nation’s unity and convergence where all other entities including politicians have failed to demonstrate the same.

Frankly speaking, every time an Afghan team wins a competition, it brings joy and fills happiness to their fellow compatriots’ faces both within and outside home. In Afghanistan, where terrorist attacks and rampant violence occupy a great portion of the news outlets, the courage, self determination and winning spirits of our beloved athletes make you proud and excited for a glimmering future.

As we all witnessed, during the sinister regime of Taliban, a great majority of sporting events were deemed un-Islamic and banned gruesomely. Instead, the mullahs were utilizing sports stadiums as places to carry out public executions and publicize amputation scenes.  Fortunately, post Taliban, Afghanistan continues to have a riveting array of achievements in almost all athletic competitions in which it takes part. The national football and cricket teams are emerging as pioneers, giving tough time to much more experienced and veteran contenders in the region in their face-offs. Besides, who can forget the country’s first ever medal in the Olympics, courtesy of Rohullah Nikpah who won it twice in subsequent events.

Regretfully with the establishment of the National Unity Government in Afghanistan, a power sharing deal brokered by the former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, suggesting an equal allotment of power both to Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and president Muhammad Ashraf Ghani. Besides ministries and provincial governorships, the country’s top sporting authority was also cut in half to accommodate the deal. Now, the country has two separate entities under the same aliases, led by two individuals taking direct order from the top hierarchy, which in turn is slowing down the efficacy of the institution and that of the sportsmen/women winning sports.

Having said that, in spite of all these challenges, from martial arts to indoor games, Afghanistan enjoys a bulk of medal winning sportsmen and women. Our cricket heroes better known as blue tigers are stunning the whole world with their extraordinary performance and untiring perseverance in winning games for Afghanistan. Learning the game in Pakistan as migrants, from a very modest beginning, they have triumphed in defeating veteran teams such West Indies and Bangladesh.

On the other hand, The Afghan national football and cricketing federations have gained both the autonomy and financial means to hire expatriate coaches for the national side. They have successfully conducted annual national league competitions among regional teams in the capital, the Afghan premier league and Eshpageza have energized and enticed young lads to engage in sports and avoid drugs, in addition to, providing visual entertainment to millions of others within and outside the country.

With all these unprecedented prospects aside, a malicious notion of meddling politicians and state actors are also on the rise, some are desperately trying to create division among athletes and jeopardize the solidarity of the resident ethnicities.  When the officials in any Olympic committee sit to elect their head through a proper voting system, with great disgust, it is the MPs who intervene in the elections, so that they have instilled one of their protégés in the post, with absolute no merit and prior acquaintance with the sport. This in turn discourages hardcore professionals to deny their service and very often results to an influx of brain drain out of the country. It certainly is a devastating setback for a country that all its other sources of inspirations have dried up sans athletic heroism.

To add to the ongoing misery as recently as last week, two well-known Afghan athletes extended challenges to face-off in a cage style free fight bout. The invitation which was initially confronted with skepticism, and ignited ethnic dialogue in the general public, is still very much on the table. In a country with a recent history of devastating internal ethnic turmoil, any such approaches to sportsmanship are irrational and bear a loss-loss outcome for our indigenous athletes. They should realize that any such arrangements may be purely based on best intentions, and deemed a normal encounter, will be seen through an ethnic rivalry lenses.

Last but not least, a nation divided into so many fronts, the last thing it needs is indulging in politicizing sports with malign and infertile approaches. It is an utmost obligation of honest statesmen to ordinary dwellers, to sideline political alienation towards any forms of sporting genre, and let the games commute its natural growth trajectory.

Naser Koshan is a freelance Afghan Columnist based in US. He can be reached at naserkoshan@yahoo.com

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