Afghan wheelchair basketball team first to play tourney on foreign shores


The month of May 2014, was a benchmark in the lives of a handful of young men from Afghanistan who comprise the nationalwheelchair basketballteam. Thesemen who have been affected physically by disease, disaster or conflict and have been rehabilitated by the ICRC — had gone to Italy at the invitation of Italian sports clubBriantea84 to play in a series of matches between 22-29 May.

The Afghan players at a basketball practice session at the ICRC Orthopaedic Centre. Kabul @ICRC/Jessica Barry

The Afghan players, who are now back home after winning two of the nine matches they played in Italy, are still hung-over with the excitement of their visit to the foreign country and the headiness of having made history by being the first Afghan wheelchair basketball team to play abroad.

For them, the trip to Italy was a celebration of their victory over the odds life has faced them with. Each day was exhilarating. On landing in Italy, the Afghan team were met by a pack of journalists and photographers  representing local and international media.  They even swam in the sea for the first time.

They played against the Italian Under-22 National Team, and a select team made up of players from Italy’s top professional division. And they won two matches out of the nine they played. The players who make up the national team are from different parts of Afghanistan, but they speak in one voice when they say how much it means to them to be ambassadors for their country and for disabled people.

The national basketball team, which was created in 2013 under the aegis of the Afghanistan  Paralympic  Committee,  had been invited by Briantea84 of Cantù near Milan, the winner of the 2012-13 Italian League.  The  project  is  a  cooperation between  the  Afghanistan  Paralympic Committee and the ICRC, which has been instrumental  in  facilitating  the  players’ training. Since 2010, wheelchair basketball players from the ICRC’s orthopaedic centres in Mazar, Herat and Kabul in Afghanistan, together with players from Maimana, have been trained for some weeks every year by a US professional basketball coach, Jess Markt, himself in a wheelchair.

In India, too, the ICRC’s Physical Rehabilitation Programme contributes to the social reintegration of people with disabilities into society by providing them with appropriate physical rehabilitation care. Partners of the ICRC working for disabled people have been empowered by the organisation to provide quality services including the development of sustainable resources. The ICRC’s Physical Rehabilitation Programme is now being shaped to enhance the accessibility of disabled people to affordable treatment by utilizing appropriate technology. The ICRC implements projects through these activities as per the priority of the Department of Disability Affairs Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

The Afghanistan Wheelchair Basketball team gathers together before the start of the match. @ICRC


Head of ICRC Regional Delegation visits the Maldives

Ms Mary Werntz, ICRC’s head of regional delegation for India, Bhutan and the Maldives, undertook a mission to Malé on 19-20 May 2014. Accompanied by Mr Lloyd Gillett, Regional Delegate to the Armed and Security Forces unit of the ICRC, and Mr Charles R Sabga, Regional Legal Adviser, ICRC, the delegation met with the Honourable Minister of Home Affairs, Attorney General, Chief of Staff of the Maldives National Defence Force, Deputy Commissioner of Police and other state officials to discuss various institutional matters and explore opportunities for collaboration.

The ICRC’s mission to Malé was coordinated by the MRCS. The President, Secretary General and staff of the MRCS held various meetings and internal collaboration exercises with the ICRC delegation visiting the Maldives. The dialogue was premised upon a spirit of strong collaboration and cooperation between the ICRC and the MRCS.

As a follow-up to this mission, the ICRC, in collaboration with the MRCS, shall propose various training opportunities and perspective-sharing exercises on IHL and other international legal principles in the Maldives.