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On the run no more, Zaiyee hopes for the best

other Updated: Dec 04, 2012 23:43 IST
Kaushik Chatterji
Kaushik Chatterji
Hindustan Times
Kaushik Chatterji

Sometime before the turn of the millennium, a teenager fled to Iran from behind the iron curtain of Taliban; by the time he returned to his homeland, half a decade had elapsed since the end of the tyrannical regime.

In the new Afghan order, cricket is in focus, what with the crammed international schedule, not to mention the cricketers making it to the World Twenty20; taekwondoka Rohullah Nikpai is a national hero, what with his medals in consecutive Olympics.

Closer home, school teams from Kabul, the violent streak of a few notwithstanding, have become a constant fixture in Subroto Cup, the annual junior football tournament in India.

So, the fact that the now 32-year-old Ahmed Fardin Zaiyee is a joint secretary in the International Kabaddi Federation in addition to the driving force behind the relatively obscure sport in Afghanistan only reinforces the fact that the war-ravaged nation has made rapid strides over the recent past.

The changes
That players and teams returning from trips abroad are greeted upon arrival regardless of what they achieved is a major source of encouragement for a country re-inducted into the Olympic fold only eight years back.

But ask Zaiyee exactly what has changed, and you are assured that there can't really be a comparison between then and now. "Back then (during the Taliban rule), our NOC (national Olympic committee) had no contact with anyone outside the country," says Zaiyee.

"But now, the NOC has been given a lot of freedom. The various sporting federations have been recognised, and each of them communicates with the Asian and international bodies."

While away from home, Zaiyee played Kabaddi across the continent, from Iran to Pakistan and even aamchi Mumbai. But he was not donning the colours of his adopted homeland, Iran.

"I was representing a team of Afghan immigrants," he says. Fitting, then, that with Kabaddi, officially speaking, in its infancy in Afghanistan, Zaiyee has coached the national team ever since its official inception three years ago.