Afghan Women, Eager to Play, Are Kept on the Sidelines
almost 2 years ago
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"While all women’s sports here are suffering, none have failed quite as spectacularly as the women’s national cycling team. Celebrated in documentaries, and the subject of a 2014 book and a blizzard of news articles, the team was recently nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — thanks to the tireless promotion of its benefactor, Shannon Galpin, who financed the team through her Colorado-based charity, Mountain to Mountain. However, Ms. Galpin announced on her web page last month that she would no longer support the Afghan Cycling Federation because of what she described as “out of control” corruption by the team’s longtime coach and the head of the federation, Haji Abdul Sediq Seddiqi. Ms. Galpin was upset that sponsors’ gifts, including more than 40 bicycles and other racing gear, valued at more than $100,000, were stolen after being handed over by her organization to the team and Mr. Seddiqi."
"Corruption in other women’s sports might not be quite as brazen, but it remains a huge problem. Diana Barakzai, who played for Afghanistan’s women’s cricket team when it was actually functioning, in 2009, said she was approached recently by the Afghanistan Cricket Board about heading up a women’s team. “They told me they already made a deal with someone to pay them $180,000 for the job, but if you’re willing to pay $200,000 you can have it,” she said, adding that she turned the offer down. Ms. Barakzai, who is not related to Mr. Barakzai, said she was surprised by the demand, since she assumed there was no money to be made in women’s cricket. Besides, the national team had not competed — or even practiced — in at least three years. But it turned out that the United States Embassy had awarded a grant of $450,000 last summer to promote women’s cricket and had sent it to Lapis Communications, a private organization, to administer. Those funds have now been returned to the American Embassy, said a Lapis official, Sarah-Jean Cunningham. “This program did not get the traction it needed to justify pushing forward,” she said.'
"Robina Jalali was on the first women’s team to compete in 2004 in the Olympics for Afghanistan after the Taliban were toppled. A runner, she was one of two at the 2004 Games. Now the head of women’s sports at the National Olympic Committee, she says that even the foreign embassies are no longer paying much attention. “The main problem is the growing insecurity we have; secondly, violence against women, which is growing. Women are not feeling safe to train,” she said. “Now we see the youth are just running away from the country, which has changed the mentality of the embassies,” she continued. “They feel they can’t give a girl a visa to compete because she’s not going to come back.”"
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