Celebrating International Day of Sport for Development and Peace 2020 – A story from Afghanistan

Danish Yazdani

In these very testing times it is good to take note of and reflect upon what is good and positive in the world. This International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, we bring you a story from Afghanistan:

Hockey plays a key role in promoting peace in the war-torn country of Afghanistan. For many Afghan nationals, hockey is not just a sport, but an important outlet of catharsis and social connection.

Hockey is also a means of driving social change in the country. In a country where the culture generally suppresses the freedoms of women, those brave souls who dare to go out and play the sport are challenging the norms of the society they live in.

Rukhsar Habibzai, Director of the Women’s Team of the Afghanistan Hockey Federation, says “Despite of many hurdles in our lives like transportation problems, cultural and norms, and financial instability, women Hockey players are still able to play Hockey on a daily basis and the team is also progressing and improving. The Hockey Women’s team has struggled so far to reach this level and they desire to participate in international championships.”

She adds further, “Fortunately for the very first time, a coaching course has been organized in which many women participated and received the technical coaching certificate. I hope one day we reach the level to play in international hockey stadiums and participate in international tournaments.”

It’s not just Afghanistan’s women who are empowered by the sport either. Hockey is popular among Men of all ages and children as well. Many leave their houses on a daily basis to play the sport, in order to escape the harsh realities of life that the country’s circumstances have imposed upon them.

Hockey as a sport re-surged in the country in 2002, after a 30-year long gap due to the war with Russia. It is also a means of driving Development within the country. The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) organized directly Coaching Courses in order to enable the hockey community of Afghanistan. From 2003 onwards, the AHF started providing Equipment Support to the country, which entailed the distribution of free hockey equipment for the masses in Afghanistan.

The main missions of the Afghanistan Hockey Federation are to ‘Protect the Youth’ and to ‘Promote Peace’ through the sport of hockey in the country. Afghanistan is therefore, a shining example for the rest of the world when it comes to overcoming adversity and rising above it all through the institution of sport.

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