A challenging game in a challenging country

Afghanistan’s rugby chief speaks about the challenges of developing rugby in his war-torn country.

Rugby ball


Afghans have always been living with challenges and have become experts at taking them on.

Such was the case with the cricket, a sport in which Afghans are now confidently expected to follow Bangladesh and take their place as a full Test-playing nation. The rapid progress of rugby is not something new for Afghans and they are confident that they will soon be the number one rugby-playing nation in Asia.

There has been always bad news from this war-torn country and the birth of rugby in Afghanistan is a prosperous good news story. 

The team have started initiatives which are working on the grassroots level and are introducing rugby in schools in Kabul. This is something which is common practice in Europe, but in Afghanistan it has never been witnessed over the centuries.

The international community seems to be quite removed from the developing game of rugby in Afghanistan and until recently there has not been any sponsorship of rugby events. But now we have an event sponsored by the British Embassy which was the Kabul Sevens tournament, following the lead of the Sevens World Series which stops off at such places as Hong Kong, London and Dubai. Let us hope one day Kabul is on that list.

There were eight teams in the first-ever Kabul 7s tournament from across the country, which attracted a huge crowd of spectators over two days.

This was the first time that Afghans enjoyed watching the rugby in their own land.

The tournament was not only a competition but it was also an exhibition for those who were not familiar with rugby.  Besides which, the Afghanistan national team has already played against UAE-Shaheen during the Asian Five Nations at the famous Sevens stadium in Dubai, and also played against Pakistan domestic teams in 2011.

But the most interesting match was when the Afghan side played against ISAF teams in Kabul last year.

Time for change

Afghanistan has experienced more than its fair share of war throughout the ages and the Afghan nation has suffered a lot of catastrophe.

It is now time to change the weapons into pens, and the fight into sport. I have high hopes for rugby and that one day it will replace football and cricket in Afghan hearts.

It is now time to change the weapons into pens, and the fight into sport. I have high hopes for rugby and that one day it will replace football and cricket in Afghan hearts.

There is no future without children. Recently we just started 15-a-side clubs and mini rugby, and we are entering a new era of introducing rugby to primary school kids in Kabul.

All of this takes up scarce resources and we are still looking for some sponsoring agencies and firms to help us spread the message of peace through rugby, towards each and every edge of the war-torn country.

Moreover, we have now had the opening of one of our new clubs called Shaheen RFC, trials for the under-19 team, and an exhibition match between the two teams.

It is a hard task, and it will not be out of order to state that the team which has put their struggle for the development of rugby includes our president, Mohammad Mansoor, myself, our technical director Abdul Khalik Bik, our coach Mohammad Ashur, and our technical advisor Steve Brooking.

I do not mention these people vainly, but in the hope that their names will help researchers when they put together the history of Afghan rugby many years from today.

Asad Ziar is the Chief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Rugby Federation. Twitter @AsadZiar

Source: Al Jazeera