Afghan youth Taekwondo team shows ISAF Kickin' good time
October 24, 2011
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- From front to side, tornado to crescent, the kicks flew as the Afghanistan National Taekwondo Federation Junior Team put on a show at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters gym, Oct. 22.
With a crowd of ISAF servicemembers cheering them on, the team of 6 Afghan girls and 11 Afghan boys demonstrated their athletic abilities to kick, break boards and work as a team.
"It was a great demonstration of tremendous athletes, tremendous sportsmanship and young people that are doing important things for their country," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Hal Pittman, of Tampa, Fla., who serves as the ISAF HQ deputy chief of staff for communications.
As the team chief for Sports and Youth Outreach in the ISAF Headquarters Traditional Communications office, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Terry Love, of Soperton, Ga., headed up the effort within ISAF to organize the event.
"This demonstration shows the partnership that exists between ISAF servicemembers and Afghanistan -- a long standing partnership," Love said. "This is all about building the capacity within the government of Afghanistan."
In a country where the age of youth ranges up to 30, they are considered crucial in building that governmental capacity.
"We understand that with youth and sports, if you compound that or make sure that's part of your outreach strategy, then you're reaching all of the population because in Afghanistan 68 percent of the population are considered youth," said Love.
According to Kabul native Samir Jaihoon, chief of the Afghan team's exhibition committee, these youth are responding.
"This is a very good opportunity that, day-by-day, we are having most kids come and say that they are really keen to come and do the sports instead of doing the wrong things or taking a gun in their hand and doing something wrong for the community," Jaihoon.
Instead, Afghan youth like Ahmad Walid and Saja Sohrabzada, who participated in a friendly sparring match during the demonstration, are honing their athletic abilities.
"The entire program was good, but the best part was the competition between the two of us," Walid said. "It was a competition between friendly combatants."
For Sohrabzada, the demonstration only deepened his desire to continue practicing Taekwondo.
"I hope that someday," said Sohrabzada, "I win a world competition and bring Afghanistan up in the world."
With or without a competition, 16-year-old Laila Houssaini, who has been practicing Taekwondo since she was 4, has no plans to quit.
"I want to go to the end," she said. "My favorite part is breaking the boards. It makes me feel strong."
That dedication and determination is nothing new to Love, a father of five who has coached youth sports, including track and field, basketball and football back in the U.S.
"All of my children are athletes and I played a lot of sports coming up in high school and college," Love said. "I love athletes, I love sports and I love working with youth."
With the help of the Afghan Junior Team, Love was able to share his appreciation with servicemembers throughout ISAF headquarters.
"This is a diplomacy effort," Love said. "This is not about one section--this is about all of ISAF understanding what we are doing because we are trying to reach out to Afghans."