Afghanistan Special Olympics Athletes overcome almost insurmountable obstacles; will compete at 2003 World Summer Games in Ireland

Special Olympics International
Monday, 16 June 2003

This Will Be the First Time that Afghanistan Has Ever Had Athletes or Sent a Delegation To Any Special Olympics Athletic Competition

From the ashes of war-ravaged Afghanistan, five brave Special Olympics athletes who have struggled against incredible odds have been chosen to represent their country atcompete in at the upcoming 2003 World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland, which will be held 2129 June, 2003. This will be the first time that Afghanistan has had Special Olympics athletes, and it is also the first time that Afghanistan will have ever sent a team to any Special Olympics competition. It is also believed to be the first Afghani delegation to compete internationally at any sports event since 1996.

These determined competitors are turning the same stadium where the brutal Taliban regime used to hold mass executions from a place of unspeakable suffering into a field of dreams. They are training to compete in aAthletics events, which consists ofincluding the 100- and 200-meter run, long jump and other track & field-type events. Their Head Coach is Abdul Karim Azizi, who will also coach the Afghanistan track & field team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

"Given the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, it's nothing short of amazing that we were able to put together a team of athletes for this year's World Games," said President & CEO president of Special Olympics, Timothy Shriver.p "The Afghani people are sending a message to the world that they are ready and anxious to retake their place on the stage of international athletic competition, and Special Olympics is proud to help them achieve this admirable goal."

In Afghanistan, where basic needs such as water and electricity services are incredibly scarce commodities, the recognition, let alone the treatment of persons with mental retardation is all but nonexistent. Children with mental retardation, frequently the most vulnerable in any society, are often abandoned at ramshackle orphanages, where many are left in empty rooms with little human contact or guidance. Nonetheless, three of the five athletes representing Afghanistan will come from two orphanages in Kabul. The team members are:

  • Najila Najila's father cannot afford to care for her, so she spends her days isolated in a room at a Kabul orphanage. During the Taliban regime, even the thought of having a female play on a sports team was punishable. Now, Najila is expected to be the first Afghani female athlete to compete in many years. She will compete in the 50-meter and 200-meter walk.
  • Sardar Sardar has no last name, which is common for members of the Afghani lower classes. When he was only three months old, his family house was bombed during the Russian invasion, killing his parents and burying him under three feet of rubble for two days. Using only his bare hands to remove the rubble, his grandfather rescued and took care of him. His grandfather died several years later, and Sardar was placed in an orphanage. At approximately age 10, Sardar stepped on a land mine, losing his right leg and permanently damaging his left foot. He gets along well with the aid of a plastic prosthesis for his right leg. He will compete in the 200-meter run and the softball throw.
  • Amin The Afghani police found him wandering alone and abandoned in the countryside and brought him to an orphanage. Despite being teased by the other orphans for being "stupid," Amin always has a cheerful smile on his face. He will compete in the 100-meter run and the 200-meter walk.
  • Immamuddin Despite vision problems in both eyes and an intense shyness, this orphan has already begun to open up, thanks to his involvement with Special Olympics. He will compete in the 200-meter run and the standing long jump.
  • Khalid Tahiry Unable to read, write or keep up with his studies, Khalid became frustrated with school and simply stopped going. He is expected to be the best competitor of the group and will compete in 100-meter and 200-meter run.
  • Additionally, all four boys will be competing in the 4 x 100 relay.

    Afghanistan Prince Mir Weis is the Hhonorary Chonorary chairman of the team, and it is hoped that he will be able to attend the World Games to cheer on his country mates. Columbia Sportswear Company is providing the athletes with items such as travel gear and rain gear; the remaining equipment and apparel, as well as the cost of their transportation to Ireland is being funded by private donations.

    For more information, or to contact Special Olympics International, see their website at:

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