#18 – For Afghan military, participating at the Invictus Games brings hope

It is also a testing period for the Afghan participants of the Invictus Games. Normally they would now be in the Netherlands for the event, but the worldwide spread of the Covid-19 virus decided differently. “But we have high hopes that in 2021 it might be an even better event.”

By Edward Swier

In early 2020, in the run-up to the Invictus Games, Commander Sergeant Major Mohammad Pashtoon of the Afghan Invictus crew visited The Hague. At that time it was still assumed that the event would be held this year. “I made a lot of movies and photos and at home in Afghanistan I made everyone enthusiastic for the Invictus Games. Thanks to the images the participants got even more excited. We are all very sorry that the tournament cannot go ahead in 2020 due to the Covid-19 virus. But of course there is every sympathy for that decision. It gives us only more desire to come to the Netherlands later on, in 2021”.

Pashtoon is, with two colleagues, team manager of Afghanistan. They supervise 11 athletes. The athletes from Afghanistan will soon, in 2021, eventually participate in four sports: powerlifts, indoor rowing, bullet shooting and sitting volleyball. “We have a very diverse company. Some were in a special division, others in what you call the ‘normal’ army. Some are now out of service, others are still doing their job. What they have in common is that they were physically injured in the army.”

However, according to Pashtoon, the prospect of participating in the Invictus Games has an enormous beneficial effect on the Afghan participants. “Our country is doing its best to arrange facilities for war wounded, but that is not easy. We have a lot of wounded, that’s the way it is. A lot of them are just happy to be alive, logically. But, with the Invictus Games, some of them now have new targets. They can look forward to something, work towards something. The prospect of being able to meet other athletes, colleagues from other countries, does a lot of good”.

Preparations

Sporting effort gives mental relaxation. And makes for a better constitution. “That, of course, is the goal for all participants of the Invictus Games, to feel better through better physical condition. I was also there last time in Sydney as team manager of the Afghan team and saw what sport can mean”.

It is therefore a major setback that, due to the coronavirus, it is not possible to train collectively now. Pashtoon: “We were very well on our way, the preparations went very well. But we had to send everyone away. Our training location, where we could all train, is now closed. We are waiting, as the rest of the world is, for the announcement of our government that we can start practicing together again”.

It goes without saying that you can now work a little on your condition individually. “It’s especially important in this special time to stay healthy.” Practicing sitting volleyball together is impossible at the moment anyway. “There’s still a challenge ahead of us. Last time, in Sydney, we lost to Jordan. Back then we said we wanted revenge in The Hague, so that’s the deal.”

Colleague

Incidentally, because the upcoming Invictus Games will be held in the Netherlands, Pashtoon has a lot of contact with a Dutch colleague in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Frans Glerum. The military attach√© stationed in Kabul at the Dutch embassy is very enthusiastic about the contact with the young but very capable non-commissioned officer. “We can mean a lot to each other on our way to the Invictus Games.” Both share the enthusiasm for the tournament. The fact that a year’s postponement proved necessary does not detract from that for both of them. Pashtoon: “Until then we have to do it with the photos of the Zuiderpark in The Hague.

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