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Afghanistan to take part in Mandela African Boxing Cup tournament

Afghanistan – now ruled by the hardline Islamist group Taliban – have been invited to participate in the inaugural Mandela African Boxing Cup tournament to take place from April 15-21 at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban, South Africa.

The Communication Department of the International Boxing Association (IBA) did not respond to queries on the criteria used to invite Afghanistan’s boxing team.

Afghanistan also competed at the 2021 Men’s World Boxing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, under IBA’s “Fair Chance” team, a group of boxers from countries undergoing political instability.

However, they did not compete under their flag. Doing so would have meant IBA recognised Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. They’re likely to compete under the same arrangement in Durban.

It is however not known how the Afghanistan team will be assembled after thousands of Afghans and sports people fled the country in 2021 when Taliban returned to power forcefully after the US troops withdrew from the country they invaded in 2001. The fleeing Afghans were escaping persecution by the vindictive Talibans. The economy was also heading to its deathbed in the face of international sanctions and banking crisis.

Boxing was banned in Taliban’s first rule of Afghanistan between 1996-2000. Taliban said boxing, which they describe as “Haram” is against humanity and a brutal sport.

It therefore came as no surprise when the 11 boxers and officials who competed in the 2021 World Championships in Serbia refused to return home for fear of reprisals from the Taliban. They were seeking refuge in the West.

The secretary-general of the Afghanistan Boxing Federation, Waheedullah Hameedi was with the boxers in Serbia, assisting them in seeking asylum.

“When Taliban took over everything changed. It was difficult to come to Serbia, our boxers trained secretly until departure,” Hameedi was quoted as saying.

They first travelled to Iran from where they applied for Serbian visas. Hameedi’s father – also a boxing official of the federation – was assassinated in 2019 by suspected Taliban assailants for recruiting women to boxing.

Among some of Afghanistan’s top boxers include Sadia Bromand and pro boxer Hamid Rahim who in 2012 featured in the first pro boxing contest in Afghanistan staged in Kabul. He beat Tanzania’s Said Mbwelwa on 7th round TKO to clinch the WBO Intercontinental middleweight title. Mbelwa quit in the 7th round because of a shoulder injury.

Sadia fled to Germany in 2020 and is now based in Berlin but decided to continue representing her country.

“In my homeland women have no rights at all, they’re not allowed to go to school, engage in sports. They just stay at home,” Sadia told journalists in New Delhi, India, where she took part in last year’s Women’s World Championships, losing to Turkey’s Elif Nur via a first round stoppage in the featherweight division.

“I’m lucky I can do sports in Germany, I’m fighting for all Afghan women, my big dream is to box in the Paris Olympics,” said Sadia who is also a journalist and a former sprinter.

Whether she’ll be among the Afghan boxers in Durban has yet to be established.

So far 41 countries – including Afghanistan – have confirmed participation in the Mandela African Boxing Cup tournament.

Here’s the list of the 41 countries released by IBA’s Communication Department:

Afghanistan
Algeria
Angola
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cameroon
Cape Verde
Comoros
Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Egypt
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Kenya
Lesotho
Libya
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritius
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Niger
Rwanda
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Africa
Sudan
Swaziland
Tanzania
Togo
Tunisia
Uganda
Zambia

Credit: AFBC Communication

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