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HindustanTimes Tue,30 Sep 2014

Taliban past hounds Afghan boxers
Agence France-Presse, PTI
Busan, September 29, 2002
First Published: 12:27 IST(29/9/2002)
Last Updated: 12:27 IST(29/9/2002)

During the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Sadig Naghsband and a small group of fighters trained furtively inside their homes, fearful of incurring the wrath of religious police who refused to recognise their sport.

Nearly a year after the proponents of puritan Islam were banished from Kabul, the 20-year-old Naghsband and the five other members of the Afghan boxing team have emerged from their cocoon, ready to dance like butterflies and sting like bees in their Asian Games ring debut.

"It was very difficult," Naghsband, the 67kg class Kabul native, told AFP. "They wouldn't let us train."

They used old gloves and makeshift gym equipment, and sometimes had to train in their bedrooms.

"They told us boxing is not good for Islam," said 23-year-old Abdullah Shekib who also hails from Kabul. "They said, 'If you hit another person in the face it is un-Islamic.' Only football was allowed."

Not that the Kabul stadium was always used for playing football.

On occassion it was instead used as an execution ground. People used to hang from the crossbars of the goals.

"I am a good Muslim," said Naqhsband, who sports a shock of dark, flowing locks and languid eyes. "But I've been boxing for 10 years."

"We did not have any equipment," said the 71kg Shekib, who wears US Stars and Stripes-motif underwear under his boxing trunks. "Just getting our uniforms was difficult."

Mohammad Daoud, a flyweight boxer from the Panjshir valley, has trained in the bowels of Kabul's crumbling Olympic stadium every day for the last two months.

A room set aside for the boxers had no equipment other than four punchbags and training often had to be halted for power cuts.

But Daoud said he still relished his first trip outside his homeland and the chance to represent his country.

"It's not important whether I win or lose. But when I hear the national anthem I will be so proud," the 21-year-old told AFP earlier in Kabul.

"I'm sure I have a chance but it will also be a chance to learn some new techniques."

Boxing is arguably the most popular sport in Afghanistan, but the team have no illusions about their immediate medal prospects in the country's first appearance in six years at a major international sporting event.

"We came here for the experience. Things were very political back then," said their trainer Mohammad Marouf Raghbat, who has yet to shave his greying Taliban era regulation-length beard.

"We came here to compete. But just getting here is victory in itself."


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