World Games Updates
Special Olympics Afghanistan (in black) takes on Special Olympics Austria on 9 February at the 2009 World Winter Games.
Be a fan of Courage: Meet the Afghanistan Floor Hockey Team
Lifetime memories are being made for the 11-member Special Olympics Afghanistan floor hockey team, competing in the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, USA. This is the first trip to the United States for the young squad members, all from Kabul, who range in age from 9 – 15. Because there are no other teams their age in Afghanistan, they trained against adult athletes.
They all come from large families, with many brothers and sisters, like Saber Shah, 12, who is one of a dozen children. He joined the movement three years ago after his older brother attended a Special Olympics coaches training seminar. The unruly and argumentative young man immediately settled down as he channeled his energy into training for table tennis, volleyball and floor hockey. He dreams of someday having a room made entirely of footballs.
The team’s goalkeeper, Baryalai, 13, used to break dishes at home before signing up with Special Olympics. His family loves the “new” Baryalai. He’s sociable, happy, and hopes to turn his love of cookies (his absolute favorite treat) into a business enterprise one day.
Mohammad Naser, 14, used to sit alone and cry and he complained about constant pain in his legs. When his brother introduced him to Special Olympics in 2006, the young man jumped at the chance. He’s now an active member of the bocce, table tennis and floor hockey teams and his family is amazed and grateful at the 180-degree turnaround in their son.
Coaches training has helped turn the tide for people with intellectual disabilities in Afghanistan. Because of the increased number of coaches, more athletes are training and being seen. A family member of every athlete competing in the 2009 World Games hockey team from Afghanistan introduced their child to Special Olympics because either they saw athletes training or heard about it through the grapevine.
From Nadimullah, 10, who used to sleep all day, but now loves to compete in football (soccer), table tennis and floor hockey and fastidiously washes his training clothes after every Special Olympics practice, to Farid Ahmad, 14, who hated to change his clothes and bathe, but now has impeccable personal hygiene and wants to win 1 million medals, to Fazil Rabi, 14, who didn’t speak and always sat by himself, but now is a happy, genial teammate who wants to be the best athlete in the world, athletes and their families have benefited from their involvement in Special Olympics.
These athletes who once had little hope, no confidence and hardly a dream for the future are now fully engaged in life, have found enjoyment in sports – Mohammad Edris,13, even sleeps with his beloved football – and, like Mohammad Suliman, 15, who wants to live in a house by the ocean, have aspirations for the future.