Afghan women’s wheelchair hoop wins.
In the past, women were so nervous when they played wheelchair basketball in public that they covered up the court’s opaque screen.
Now their faces are running through the Afghan media.
On Sunday, the national women’s wheelchair basketball team won the first prize in the fourth Bali cup international competition in Indonesia. The women’s team, from India, Indonesia and Thailand, beat Thailand 65-25 in the final.
This is the first time the team has participated in an international competition. Nilofar Bayat, a member of the Afghan News channel Tolo News, said: “I am happy to win this honor. “The team is very strong, but we are stronger after playing.”
The team’s American coach, Jess Markt, has been training 11 members of the national team since 2012. As a result of the scheduling conflict, he was unable to compete in Indonesia, where the Afghan coach Tahera Yosoufi and Wasiquilah Sediqi traveled with the women and watched the transition of female players over the past five years.
“They are one of the greatest sporting stories I’ve ever been associated with,” said Markt, who trained wheelchair basketball teams for the international committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, south Sudan and India. “I’m very proud of them.”
When the Afghan team started shooting, the players were worried about what their family and friends would think. It’s hard enough to be a woman in Afghanistan, he explains, and it’s unheard of for a woman to use a wheelchair.
That’s why women between the ages of 17 and 30 initially asked for screens around the courthouse, he said. But after the women saw their passion for the 2013 men’s wheelchair basketball game, they told Markt: “we want people to see us play and get the screen.
Markt said the Afghan women’s wheelchair basketball program was welcomed with the support of the international committee of the Red Cross. The international committee of the Red Cross provides training venues, courts, equipment, and even taxi fares for players who need to ride the game. Today, there are 120 women wheelchair basketball players in Afghanistan. Because of polio, birth defects or war-related injuries, many of them cannot use their limbs.
“Other disabled girls see women do incredible things and say,” I want to be like them, “Markt says. “The national team has become a national model for girls.”
Markt will travel to Afghanistan in October to organize a national game for men and women. He hopes to bring the women to Thailand for another match.
The women’s national team participated in a wheelchair basketball training camp in Thailand in April. This is the first time an athlete travels internationally, competing with women from abroad. It was the first time they had ever seen a beach.
Markt recalled that they reached the high seas as quickly as possible. “Wearing a headscarf and beautiful Afghan clothes,” he said. “it’s an incredible sight.”
When they arrived in Indonesia last week, the women felt like “beach veterans,” Markt joked.
The players said, “we’ve done this before. It’s not a big deal.”