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Monday, April 22, 2024

An Afghan tragedy

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THERE have been calls—among many others—to spring free the members of Afghanistan’s national women’s football team before the Taliban get their hands on them.

The swift and sudden folding of the old Afghan government even before the American pullout from the country caught most by surprise. I don’t think anyone expected the Afghan national government to hold out long against the emboldened and stronger Taliban but the rapid collapse is shocking.

I think the Western powers have been trying to fight modern wars like they did in past World Wars. The problem is, their opponents don’t fight that way. Whether you think clinging on to a moral code in war is just and right and that separates one from the other is quite a conundrum.

The tactics clearly have to change. It’s so predictable that it is pathetic.

And that leaves us with the number of people trying to get out of Afghanistan and their women’s national football team.

Given the Taliban’s view on hardline Islamist rule and their backward look towards women, the lives of these athletes are in danger.

The images of the murders of women (not necessarily athletes) inside their national stadium became the defining image of the Taliban’s horrific rule. It stands to reason that it will be more of the same after the August 31 pullout of the remaining foreign soldiers.

It should be noted that Afghans state that under the first Taliban rule (until they were ousted by the US), sports was indeed played. It just didn’t involve women.

Safi Stanekzai, an Afghan journalist, bared that cricket, volleyball, boxing, and football were allowed by the Taliban.

What happens today could be anyone’s guess.

Almost two decades ago, I bought Simon Freeman’s book, Baghdad FC” that chronicled the hardships of Iraq’s football players under the despotic and cruel rule of Saddam Hussein.

The late dictator’s son Uday (since also perished) ran Iraq’s Olympic Federation and he would torture the players if they lost matches. One player who missed a penalty kick was forced to kick a block of concrete until his foot was broken. Some were electrocuted while others murdered.

Speaking of missed penalties, Colombian footballer Andres Escobar was murdered after his own goal against the United States during the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

During that match, Escobar tried to block a cross by American John Harkes. He inadvertently sent the ball into the back of his own net and that goal helped the Americans win, 2-1.

Five days after Colombia was eliminated from World Cup play, Escobar was murdered by three men outside a bar in Medellin. Each time he was shot, the gunman was said to have shouted, “Goal!”

In this past Tokyo Olympics, North Korean defector and human rights activist Yeonmi Park said that when American Gwen Barry did not face the American flag during the podium awarding ceremony, she would have been immediately executed in Pyongyang with several generations of her family sent to re-education camps if not also executed.

That is why I think that politics should not be mixed with sports.

With the return of the Taliban to power, one can only surmise that civil liberties allowed during the occupation by Western powers will be curtailed. And more so with sports especially those involving women.

Right now, that takes a backseat to rescuing those left behind in this shambolic fall of a government and nation.

What a tragedy.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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