A dusty convoy winds its way through the hills of Afghanistan. The cargo is heavy so the jeeps hang low.
This mission is not warfare - it is much more simple than that. The guns and ammo have been replaced with rugby balls, resistance fighters replaced with hefty sportsmen. This convoy's aim is to tell people about a sport called rugby union - and to unite a nation that has been devastated by war.
One man leading the charge is founder and CEO of the Afghanistan Rugby Federation Asad Ziar. Here he explains why he is taking rugby to the people and how far his organisation has come:
The convoy starts from Kabul at 5:00am on May 10th 2013 - and safely returns at 8:30pm in the evening. It has been a long day but not one that has been wasted. Rugby in Afghanistan has taken another step forward.
Rugby is one of Afghanistan’s newest sports. It was introduced in May 2011 and its progress and achievement to date is optimistic.
"It was not a only a convoy but it was a very result oriented trip, we did an excellent job introducing rugby and attracting youth and kids towards this great sport"
Mini rugby coach, Khanjar Baig Tatar
Afghanistan is already affiliated with the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) and has participated in two official tournament under the auspicious of ARFU. Although the rugby squad has not gained any noticeable results yet, the domestic development is impressive and progress can be witnessed with the increase in registered clubs and players.
In a drive to expand the sport into other provinces I - along with senior coaches and the national team manager - organised a fresh initiative. A convoy of eight vehicles filled with rugby players travelled to the two eastern provinces of Afghanistan to introduce rugby to the sport loving regions of Laghman and Nangarhar.
The convoy of the rugby development team was warmly welcomed by the students and youths of the provinces. The two teams were formed and a friendly match was organised between them so that spectators understood how this game is played. Many people had question for Afghan coach Mohammad Ashur Stanekzai such as ‘Why are the goal poles that tall?’ ‘Why is tackling not banned?’, ‘Why there is no goal keeper ?’
Afghan Rugby national squad captain Mr. Mustafa Sadat - who just returned from India where he donated half of his liver to his mother - took part in the coaching and briefed the spectators and explained the quality of the sport of rugby.
"It was not a only a convoy but it was a very result oriented trip, we did an excellent job introducing rugby and attracting youth and kids towards this great sport" said Khanjar Baig Tatar, the mini rugby coach.
Ramin Wardak - the club team manager - said he was asked questions by many youngsters: "I think that this shows their interest to the sport of rugby and we can easily develop the sport of rugby within months in these provinces."
Recently we have also started a drive for developing mini rugby. As rugby is a new game it still requires more players at all levels. Developing mini rugby and junior rugby will help to assure the future of the game in Afghanistan.
By developing the principles for the love of physical activity, team-work, and the skills of rugby at early ages we are aiming to develop strong values and skills that can be used throughout a lifetime and career.
Mini rugby can be the start in a long term development model of a successful rugby player, or for some players simply the beginning of an enjoyable and healthy lifestyle.
Although the main focus and concern of the Afghan mini rugby is participation we also want children to have the opportunity to develop strong fundamentals for rugby through good coaching. In order to ensure a child’s best chance for success, Afghan mini rugby needs more resources available so that coaches have the required tools.
The Afghanistan Rugby Federeation is not only promoting and expanding rugby but we are trying to ensure our new generation does not get involved in fighting and crime.
We are doing our best to give a sporting vision instead of fighting and wars since sport is always the sign of bringing people together.
If you would like to be part of the development of rugby in Afghanistan, or find out more, please get in touch via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Asad Ziar is the Chief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Rugby Federation & The Founder of Rugby in Afghanistan.
Source: Al Jazeera