Afghanistan women’s volleyball team fumes at training conditions at Asian Games

The Afghanistan women’s volleyball team have complained about the training facilities at this year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, stating they have not been able to practice yet on a court, and have been confined to a gym as part of their fitness regime.

The team members, who are participating in defiance of the Taliban, all currently live in exile but are taking part at the Games.

Khushal Malakzai, who runs the volleyball program, told Reuters on Sunday that the players “still haven’t been able to train.”

“We need to have them training with the ball. I don’t know why they can’t have training for an hour or two when they have all these facilities.

“If they’re not training on court, then it’s like starting from zero.”

Malakzai said they had been allocated one training session two days before the women’s competition starts on Saturday.

Teams at major multi-sport events are usually able to train in regulation facilities multiple times before their event, and often practice daily.

However, organizers said Afghanistan was not alone in missing out on training time on a proper court. Games organizers said in an email to Reuters: “At this point, all countries are treated equally.”

“The venue (is) not open to the public until that day (Thursday).”

The women’s volleyball team is part of a group of 17 female athletes competing at the Asian Games under Afghanistan’s exiled national Olympic committee.

This is the first Asian Games since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, and two teams of athletes are taking part. One, sent from Afghanistan where women are banned by the Taliban from participating in sports, consists of about 130 male athletes, who will participate in 17 different sports, including volleyball, judo and wrestling.

Another set is drawn from the diaspora of Afghan athletes around the world, and includes the 17 female athletes, Hafizullah Wali Rahimi, the president of Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee from before the Taliban took over, told Associated Press.

Rahimi, who now works from outside Afghanistan but is still recognized by many countries as its official representative on Olympic matters, told reporters at the team’s official arrival ceremony late Thursday that the athletes are there for the love of sports.

“We want to be keeping the sports completely out of the politics so the athletes can freely, inside and outside their country, do their sports activity and development,” he said.

While the Taliban promised a more moderate rule than during their previous period in power in the 1990s, they have imposed harsh measures since seizing Afghanistan in August 2021.

They have barred women from most areas of public life such as parks, gyms and work and have banned girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade. They have also prohibited Afghan women from working at local and non-governmental organizations and sport for women is taboo.

The measures have triggered a fierce international uproar and has increased the country’s isolation.