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Afghanistan National Basketball Team Makes Impressive Debut

Over 100 athletes from Afghanistan traveled to Doha, Qatar in late November to compete in the 15th Annual Asian Games. Afghan athletes are competing in boxing, Judo, Taekwondo, gymnastics, wrestling and weightlifting.

The Asian Games featured the first international appearance of the Afghan National Basketball Team. The team is composed of both Afghan nationals and Afghan-Americans. At the behest of the Afghan National Olympic Committee and the Afghan National Basketball Federation, the team was selected through a series of try-outs organized by prominent Afghan athletes. Fourteen Afghan-American athletes will join their teammates from Afghanistan to compete in Doha, facing China/Hong Kong on November 23 and Syria on November 24.

On November 23, the Afghan team celebrated victory over Hong Kong, China after a tense 65-57 game.  Afghanistan’s powerful defense enabled the team to pull ahead after a score of 50-50, allowing Hong Kong to score only seven points in the last ten minutes of play. Team captain Yosuof Etemadi and Nafi Mashriqi were Afghanistan’s top scorers with 16 points each. Speaking to reporters after the game, coach Zabi Zewalt said, “It is a big thing for us, it is the first time after a long time that we have had a basketball team. We are very excited, the kids are very good, and have a bright future.”

Afghanistan played Syria on November 24, losing 84-66. Although the team was outplayed, the Afghan players played superbly, forcing over twenty turnovers. “I am absolutely proud. It is our first time here and you just wait until you see us next time. You saw how close we came and the good support we had and these results will mean a lot back home,” said coach Zewalt upon the conclusion of the game.

Afghanistan has a long tradition of international sports competition, beginning with the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Wrestler Mohammed Ebrahim won nation-wide acclaim upon attaining fifth place in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. A team of six male and female athletes from Afghanistan competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The Afghan National Team will prove to be tough competition, and many of the young athletes intend on winning gold medals. At last year’s Asian Games, Ms. Roia Zamani won a bronze medal in women's middle weight Taekwondo. "Winning or losing is not important for our delegation. We want to learn from the Asian Games, and be a part of the sports family," she said upon her return to the competition.


The Afghan National Basketball Team is guided by manager Mr. Esmael Husseini and coach Mr. Zabi Subat, and was accompanied by Mr. Hamed Elmi, Cultural Attaché to the Embassy. The historic participation of these athletes was made possible with the help of the Bayat Family Foundation and the Afghan Sports Federation.

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