NEW DELHI: Sixty-four national players, six professional courts and a handful of coaches. This is what Afghanistan National Badminton Federation (ANBF) has at their disposal currently, after coming into existence in 2004. Many may be surprised that the sport even exists in Afghanistan, but Mastoora Arezoo — president of the association — is leaving no stone unturned to popularise it in the war-torn nation.
The first lady in Afghanistan to head a sports association vouches that badminton will come up, and will be instrumental in changing lives in the nation.
Right after Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, there has been a lot of effort by Afghans for improving the sport and getting the right infrastructure. In that bid, ANBF has been receiving a lot of support from the Badminton World Federation (BWF), and more importantly, Badminton Association of India (BAI).
Right from equipment, to developing more courts, and training coaches, little steps are being taken. Also, Iran — another nation that is yet to announce itself on the world badminton scene — is working closely with Afghan players and coaches.
“Right now, we are a really small group of enthusiasts trying to make badminton the biggest sport in our country. Initially there was no support, but then we set up a court at the Kabul Polytechnic University. The response was really good.
“Support from BAI was a turning point. Almost everything was taken care of by them; right from equipment to training coaches.We are working closely with Iran.
We play and train with them, and we are getting better with each passing day,” Mastoora told Express. As one can rightly imagine, it is difficult for women to take up the sport in Afghanistan, let alone run it. Mastoora also has to go through a lot each just to be able to continue the good work she is doing right now.
“Being a woman in Islamist countries is not easy. I face a lot of problems each day, but I still encourage my women players to keep going on, no matter what. We just don’t want to show ourselves as victims.”
Once a keen volleyball player, Mastoora had to give up the game as there was no encouragement. The 27-year-old wants to ensure that her nation’s players don’t suffer the same fate.
“I think it is high time that we stop losing out on talented players due to pressures. I want to make sure that they get the best they deserve.”