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Sport can play a positive role in bringing sustainable peace

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Sport can play a positive role in bringing sustainable peace

Postby asadziar » Mon, 22 Dec 2014, 11:45

The world famous, Nelson Mandela the icon of democracy in South African used sport to heal a divided country. Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people. Sport can create hope where there is only hopelessness.

Experts from around the globe believe that sport is a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding, bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline and respect are understood all over the world and can be utilized in the sustainability of peace and social cohesion.

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday October 31, 2014 adopted by consensus the latest resolution on sport entitled “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace”. The Resolution reaffirms the power of sport to bring about social change and encourages the use of sport as a vehicle to foster development, strengthen education, prevent disease, empower girls and women, and promote the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities, and support conflict prevention and peace building.

Research finds that in addition to improved physical health, sport plays a vital & positive role in youth development, including improved academic achievement, higher self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems, and better psychosocial. Sport has often helped with issue of crime prevention. Crime prevention, according to Oxford English Dictionary is “the adoption of measures intended to reduce or inhibit criminal activity, by implementing programs to deter potential offenders or to enhance the security of potential targets” In some countries sport is being used to reduce anti-social behaviors as well. According to the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 in Great Britain, anti-social behaviors are behaviors or actions “that cause or are likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons.

Sport in Afghanistan

There are too many sports played in Afghanistan but the most playing sports in the country are Cricket & Football. Cricket is one of the two main sports that Afghans participate in and watch on television. Nazeem Jaar Abdulrahimzai , Domestic Cricket Manager, Afghanistan Cricket Board ( ACB) states “ there are too many programs, events & tournaments that we organize domestically to promote, develop and expand the sport of cricket to each and every province but we do not have any specifically designed project & programs that promotes peace” He added that if we have funds for sport for peace projects we will certainly expand our programs and initiatives to more far flung areas. Nazeem Jaar Abdulrahimzai who was at his office was busy working on the Cricket Text Book Phrases which is going to be officially included in the Afghan Education Curriculum. Nazeem Jaar Abdulrahimzai who works late hours in his office at Afghanistan Cricket Board is one of the most hard working person and works tirelessly to keep the momentum of the cricket development in Afghanistan.

In the northern parts of the country there is still passion for the Afghan National sport “ Buzkashi” There are goats, horses, men ( Chapandaz), and from 13th century the locals love to play Buzkashi while some believe that Buzkashi is 2,000 years old traditional sport in Afghanistan. The rules for Buzkashi are simple. Men on horseback grab a goat from a chalk circle, carry it around a pole and drop it into another circle. No line judges downs, innings, or referees. Sometimes there are teams, and sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes the field is 200 meters by 200 meters, and sometimes it isn’t. Afghans are tough people and in a country where war has been a way of life for many decades, it can be easily said that Buzkashi is the world’s toughest sport.

Mohammad Essa Khan 65, who used to play Buzkashi 35 years ago said “ Buzkashi is not only that you grab the goat, bring it around the pole line and put it in the chalked circle, the horsemen or Chapandaz had to bear a lot of cuts and injuries to reach the pole lines, since other horsemen used to snatch the goat and if you do not release goat they will use whip to beat you till you drop the goat “


Why Rugby ?

The price of a single horse for Buzkashi starts at $5,000 and go up to $50,000 and it is one of the reason that the game is not expanding and developing, because GDP Per Capita in Afghanistan is still est $700 only. Buszkashi is now amongst the expensive sports to play and that most of the players are trying to join the alternatives sports, the most playing sport Cricket & Football does not have any type of resemblances with Buzkashi and as Buzkashi is a cross between Polo & Football rugby is the best proper alternative sport for Buzkashi. In fact rugby is one of the toughest sports in the world and so is Buzkashi but rugby will not cost anything but a single rugby ball for 14 players and not a horse for a single player. Rugby is still the newest team sport in Afghanistan and is only 3 years old.

Mohammad Mansoor Majid , President of Afghanistan Rugby Federation who was representing Afghanistan at Asian Rugby Football Union ( ARF) Annual General Assembly Meeting in Dubai, UAE on 7th of December 2014 told media “We are trying to introduce rugby as a force in bringing about cultural change and democracy in a social situation “ He added that research indicates that in communities where youth are involved in organized sport programs & events, there is an eye catching reduction in the crime rate and antisocial activities. In a response to a question Mr. Mansoor stated that the Afghan Unity Government should help in the development and introduction of new sports too and they should not only put all their concentration on a single sport in county. He added that “ I do not see any best alternative sport for our national sport of Buzkashi but rugby “


Study has shown that the longer youth play sport, the greater attachment they have to their community, love their country and that physical movement can affect the brain’s physiology too by increasing cerebral capillary growth, blood flow, oxygenation, production of neurotrophins, growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, neurotransmitter levels, development of nerve connections, density of neural network, and brain tissue volume. These changes may be associated with improved attention; improved information processing, storage, and retrieval; enhanced coping; enhanced positive affect; and reduced sensations of cravings and pain.

In a country where hospital bed density is est. 0.4/1000 population it means that we have only 0.4 of hospital beds per 1,000 people. Hospital beds include inpatient beds available in public, private, general, and specialized hospitals and rehabilitation centers while an estimated 90% of the Afghan population is now covered by mobile phone services hence at least 22 million citizens now have cell-phones and 50% population have access to internet facility. The 3-G services are now available in capital cities of 24 provinces. In fact we left regional countries far behind in communication sector and the regional countries left us for back in peace & stability and many more sectors. Do we have 24 sport stadiums in our country? Did we manage to support youngsters who participate in sport against a backdrop of violence, conflict and suffering? Is there any single playing ground available for Afghanistan Rugby Federation in the country to develop the sport of rugby or organize any events?

In an answer to a question Sabir Slaimankhel, Afghan Rugby Coach said “ Afghans are physically fit for rugby and they have good stamina for the sport of rugby, they only lack technical aspect and experience. Today Afghan Rugby National 7s squad can easily beat Lebanon, UAE and Jordan and have already beat them in 2013 & 2014 , In fact Afghanistan is still an associate member of Asian Rugby Football Union ( ARFU) even not a full member while Lebanon, UAE & Jordan are International Rugby Board ( World Rugby ) members and they have the best facilities for their players. The sport of rugby could have crossed many provinces but the lack of financial aid and Afghan government’s cooperation are the two main obstacles in the development and expansion of rugby.

Despite the perception that sport has a relatively soft influence on youth, adults recognize many positive benefits of sport to society. In fact four out of five adults agree that sport provides a source of fun and enjoyment and can reduce youth crime and delinquency and that losing in sport can teach valuable life lessons and even gain experiences.

The Afghan Government does not have any permanent solution to engage at risk youth, they are always trying to search for short term employment for the citizens & youth such as road pavement and other short term construction projects.

We do understand that sporting initiatives alone cannot stop or resolve conflict, but sport gives us an engaging and cost-effective medium for post-conflict relief work and sustainable peace building as well as future conflict prevention. Since peace building, as a field of study, lends itself to practical approaches that seek to address the underlying sources of violent conflict, it is surprising that despite knowing the value of sport, the role of sport in post-conflict peace-building remains poor, especially in grassroots models.

In long term sport can be a really important and successful way of helping divided communities to focus on sustainable peace and reconciliation. It can also be a great source for building international understanding and friendship.

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