Making a permanent impression since 1994
August 9, 2004
Afghan girls soccer team wins hearts
By Katie Jordan
most teens, summer camp is nothing out of the ordinary.
last week eight girls from
girls, who are as young as 11 and as old as 16, came all the way from Kabul to
attend a sports and leadership camp in Connecticut, sponsored by the Afghan
Youth Sports Exchange, a non-profit organization.
girls who had rarely played soccer before coming to America – because it is a
male-dominated sport back home -- they certainly seemed to be making up for lost
were chosen for the team based on interviews they gave at the
Zaka, a 13-year-old Afghan-American from
they loved it.
Wasil, 13, who played midfield, said she likes to play soccer and hopes to
continue playing when she returns to
Kohestani, the team’s 16-year-old forward, also enjoys playing soccer. She
said she was excited about competing in the International Children’s Games in
year is the first time that a team from
prepare for this competition, the girls got help from the Simsbury Soccer Club,
which organized the coaching in town.
a lot of folks involved,” said Alan Blanchard, one of the many guest coaches
who helped the girls learn to play soccer.
Simsbury Soccer Club donated equipment, American Airlines donated the girls’
flights and the boarding school donated the dorms, said Ayub.
The Afghan Communicators and
involved is helping these girls do a lot more than just learn how to play
Afghan Youth Sports Exchange’s goal is to help the girls learn not just the
game of soccer, but also some leadership skills they can take home with them.
Ayub said she hopes they can better
said the girls will be able to use sports as a “springboard to become more
involved in community.”
was born in
knew I wanted to help out, but I didn’t want to just jump on the bandwagon,”
said she turned to the idea of using sports as a unique way to help because
athletics is close to her heart. “This program is an extension of myself,”
enough, soccer was the one sport that Ayub never played.
soccer proved the most practical sport to work with because it only requires a
field and a ball. In
is also a perfect way for people from two different worlds to come together,
can transcend many boundaries,” she said.
all the planning, Ayub described her first meeting with the girls as
was an idea on paper so long,” she said. “I
had to pinch myself to make sure it was true.”
soon reality kicked in, and the recognition that she had to take care of the
girls helped her over her shock, said Ayub.
made me feel welcome from day one,” she said.
that first meeting in early summer, both Ayub and her team have had an
experience they will never forget.
addition to making friends and playing soccer, the girls have spent some of
their time seeing sights and learning about a country that is very different
from their own.
Hanifa Muhammad Faizel said that there’s nothing about
agreed: “I like
who learned English in a school in
bikes, playing basketball, eating ice cream, and using a computer are all
opportunities Wasil and her teammates got to enjoy during their visit.
like the people of
said they had visited
girls were also impressed with all the grass in
recalled a visit to the beach, when the Afghan girls asked her if wearing skimpy
bikinis was against the law. She told them, “It’s
Afghan girls have not been the only ones who have had their eyes opened by this
said, “When they come here, I can see a little bit of
girls told Zaka about the beauty of their own country, about their pride in
being first or second place in their class, and about their wish for better
schools, she said.
also said that many Americans think Afghan girls are quiet and innocent.
not innocent,” Zaka said. “They’re just like us.”
will be hard to say goodbye to her eight new friends, said Zaka, but she will
keep in touch through email.
I’ll go there,” she added.
said of her team, “They’re different girls today than the day I met them.”
said she admires how much they’ve grown and their maturity in handling things
they’ve never had to deal with before.
herself, Ayub said, the experience has been equally rewarding.
been like a parent watching their own kids,” said Ayub.
girls played in the International Children’s Games the last weekend of July
and even came to the attention of President George W. Bush, who gave a speech
welcoming the young athletes.
glad every country is represented,” Bush said. “I think it's especially
interesting and an especially poignant and uplifting moment that young girls are
here from the country of
Wakil said of meeting Bush, “He’s talking about Afghanistan. He shook my
Mohammad, who played defense, said the president told the girls that they were a
very good team.
Mohammad said that when she tells people back home of her visit to this country,
she will say that she saw the president and liked it a lot, played soccer and
liked it a lot and saw a lot of people and Afghans who lived in America.
girls also enjoyed meeting people from countries around the world – including
Mexico, Iceland, Pakistan, India, Australia and Greece – at the International
Children’s Games, she said.
for competing in the games in Cleveland, Fazal Mohammad said it made her feel
“very happy and proud” for her country.
future of the program for
the girls get home, the girls will have guidance to accomplish their goal of
starting sports programs in their schools, Ayub said, because the
up is very important,” said Ayub. “I’m very confident they’re going to
utilize these skills in a positive manner,” she said.
girls all have email accounts and will all be able to keep in touch with the new
friends they’ve made, said Ayub.
as for the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange itself, Ayub said this is just its first
year, and she plans to continue its work in the future.
non-profit organization will need more donations to keep running, however.
interested in helping out can contact Awista Ayub at Awista@Afghansports.org
or on her cell phone at (843) 906-3400.
information can be found online at the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange Internet
site at: www.Afghansports.org.
|© 2004 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.|