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In Afghanistan, no need for shores to play beach soccer

Ⓒ AFP – WAKIL KOHSAR – | Afghanistan has no access to the sea but this does not
prevent dozens of children from training on makeshift sand in
hopes of representing their country on the beach soccer team.
“beach football”.

Afghanistan has no access to the sea but this does not
prevent dozens of children from training on makeshift sand in
hopes of representing their country on the beach soccer team.
“beach football”.

In the Ghazi stadium in Kabul, where the Taliban regime was
once the scene of terrifying executions, dozens of young
people, most of whom never saw the sea, dribble and score with
enthusiasm, proudly wearing Real Madrid T-shirts or Barça.

“I did not know anything about beach soccer before joining
this program. I have never been on a beach,” says Mudasir
Yousufzaï, 14, in his new passion. “We have a lot of problems:
we have to play (barefoot) on stones and dust, the goals have
no nets, but I love it anyway!”

Like him, dozens of Afghans are participating in this
expanding program, launched six months ago to recruit new
talents.

The initiator is Hazratgul Baran, who plays for the Afghan
beach soccer team, with a surprisingly respectable ranking for
a landlocked country with a lack of sports infrastructure and
endemic violence: 10th in Asia and 52nd in the world.

“When I started the program, people were wondering what I
was doing and saying,” How do you prepare people to play beach
soccer when they have no idea what a beach is like ? “,
remembers this 28-year-old Afghan.

But amateurs are not lacking. Football is very popular in
Afghanistan, and beach soccer has made a name for itself when
the national team made its debut on the international stage in
a match against Qatar in 2013 against all odds.

“We were inspired by Switzerland, a landlocked country that
is doing well at the international level,” said Afghan beach
soccer committee director Ruhullah Rastagar.

Ⓒ AFP – WAKIL KOHSAR – | In the Ghazi stadium in Kabul, where the Taliban regime
was once the scene of terrifying executions, dozens of young
people, most of whom never saw the sea, dribble and score with
enthusiasm, proudly wearing Real Madrid T-shirts or
Barça.

“We are doing better than many countries with real beaches
and we have beaten strong teams like Malaysia and China,” he
said.

– Under the beach, the stadium –

The fascination of Afghans for football was illustrated last
year when a young fan of Lionel Messi, Murtaza Ahmadi, pictured
with a plastic bag with blue and white stripes cut to imitate
his idol’s jersey, buried the social network screen.

Propelled himself a time to the rank of star, the little
boy, originating from a remote and unstable province, had even
been able to meet the Argentine player.

At the Ghazi stadium, nearly 200 young boys, mostly from
very disadvantaged backgrounds, train three times a week.

“Most of our players are street youth who have no other
opportunity to demonstrate their talents,” Baran said.

Ⓒ AFP – WAKIL KOHSAR – | At the Ghazi stadium, nearly 200 young boys, mostly
from very disadvantaged backgrounds, train three times a
week.

“I go to very remote areas of Kabul to look for these
talents. If you know how to play on the street, you know how to
play on the sand,” he said.

Hazratgul Baran took part in the victory against Qatar. He
then signed with a Brazilian club of beach soccer but quickly
returned to Afghanistan, hoping to reveal future stars.

In the absence of the fine sand usually used for beach
soccer fields, which comes from the sea or the desert, young
Afghans train on heavier, irregular sand. And in fact of palm
trees and horizon azure, they are thorny that surround the
ground.

“Unfortunately, nobody supports us
financially, but I hope we will have help to continue this
unique program,” says Hazratgul Baran.

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