Business Standard

'A coach needed': Afghan boxing seeks Indian guidance


Press Trust of India New Delhi
A brutal war and relentless terror attacks have hurt just about everything in Afghanistan, barring perhaps one -- the spirit to go on and aim for a life beyond the trauma of daily violence.

A shining example of this is the country's eight-strong boxing team that is in the national capital to participate in the ongoing India Open, the richest boxing tournament ever to be held here.

They are in the national capital to compete but also have a request for "old friend" India -- "provide us with at least one coach to train our kids".

"The night we landed in India, we got the news of terror attack in Kabul which killed so many people. This is the daily horror we live with," coach Mohammed Qadir Sultani told PTI, referring to the ambulance bombing in Kabul on January 27 which killed over 100 people.

"The fear of life is a constant in Afghanistan, nobody knows whether they would make it home after starting out to train in the morning," he spoke with a smile on his face despite the chilling reality that is everyday life in his country.

Afghanistan has not seen stability for quite a few decades, a situation brought about by the civil war of the '90s, followed by the Taliban rule and the American invasion owing to the 9/11 terror attacks.

The country has a functioning government under President Ashraf Ghani right now but terror attacks, which the Afghans blame on Pakistan, have come in the way of their attempts to move towards normalcy.

Sports, for them, is a tool to achieve that normalcy and as far as boxing goes, Afghans says, they can do with a little help from India.

"We would like India to provide us with at least one coach. In fact, we would really love to have Mr G S Sandhu as a coach. He is very experienced and we have an excellent rapport with him," said Mahmood Shah Mehrabuddin, another coach with the national team.

"He (Sandhu) was the coach when India won its first Olympic medal (through Vijender Singh), we are very impressed with him. He would be great for us, if he can train us, I am sure we will get a lot better," he added.

Sandhu served as the national men's coach for over two decades before also training the women for nearly a year. He was eventually made the head of 'Train the Trainers' programme of the Boxing Federation.

Afghanistan have never had a foreign coach train their boxers. Their coaches, however, have got training from the International Boxing Association (AIBA)-appointed experts.

The country now boasts of three female coaches with AIBA certification and at least 30 women boxers in the national camp.

It is quite a lot of progress made given that Afghanistan's first Olympic coach for women boxers -- Mohammed Saber Sharif -- had to flee the country fearing for his life for training women boxers.

"There is craze for boxing. Even the women are very interested. Kabul is the hub of this. Afghanistan has three national level teams -- senior, youth and junior, they add up to nearly 120 boxers, 30 of whom are women," said Mehrabuddin with a sense of pride.

"...the issue is transportation. If women have decent connectivity between home and training centers, they are more inclined to take up sports. It is still a big deal if a girl takes up boxing but they have fought well to move forward," he added.

The Afghanistan story has been mostly about war, terror and conflict for years now but sports offers an "escape" and Mehrabuddin said the country is desperate to hold on to it.

"Everybody in this world knows that security situation in Afghanistan is not good. But people have not given up.

"Afghanistan is a country which is madly in love with sports. It's a country which loves all sports, whether it is cricket or boxing or any other," he signed off.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Jan 29 2018 | 12:50 PM IST

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