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Playing ball out of Taliban’s shadow

The four hours that it takes to fly from the city of Mumbai to Kabul is the time Zohib Islam Amiri spent walking between his home and the football ground as a kid growing up in Afghanistan.

sports Updated: Nov 18, 2011 00:08 IST
Shail Desai

The four hours that it takes to fly from the city of Mumbai to Kabul is the time Zohib Islam Amiri spent walking between his home and the football ground as a kid growing up in Afghanistan.

But there was sheer joy in simply playing the game on arriving at the destination - so much so, that even the Taliban couldn't break down the grit of a little boy who dreamt of one day playing for his nation.

The latest addition to the Mumbai FC squad is a 24-year-old Afghani, who had no other ambitions in life but to play the beautiful game. It didn't matter then that he was growing up in a country where most things weren't right as long as the ball was at his feet.

Amiri's father and his two football-crazy brothers were picked up by the Taliban on multiple occasions and beaten up, which forced the family to seek refuge in Pakistan.

“I joined the Akhan academy to resume playing. I was there for three years, and once the Taliban regime was overthrown, I returned to Kabul in the hope of playing for my country,” he says. 2005 saw an overwhelming moment for Amiri, when he debuted for Afghanistan in a friendly against Tajikistan. The same year, he joined local club Kabul Bank, where he played until last season.

But it was his trip last year that finally gave him a chance to make India his temporary home. Amiri's nippy footwork was noticed during his game against Air India at the Cooperage. “When Mumbai FC approached me, I was more than happy to come live in Shahrukh's city," he said referring to his favroutie bollywood actory.