Out of all bad news that repeatedly make headlines about the country, Afghanistan’s U-20 Futsal team for the very first time came out of blue to make through to semi-final of Asian U-20 Futsal Championship Iran 2019. With limited resources, and amid ongoing war in the country, under 20 national futsal players kicked powerful futsal teams out, and made their way to play against Japan in the semi-final match.
“I had told players that we are the champion,” said Abdul Razaq Mamrak, coach of Afghanistan’s U-20 futsal team. “I had full confidence in the talents and abilities our players.”
The war-torn country’s futsal team lost the final match to Japan, but making its way to the semi-final and securing the second position, were a tremendous success and pride that united the worrisome people of all corner of life. From president to a shopkeeper, and from university student to school boy all went to watch and cheer the match.
Before going to Asian U-20 Futsal Championship 2019, the Afghan U-20 futsal team had a 20-day exercise in the capital, Kabul, and the coach had made tireless efforts to bring players from each corner of the country.
“We have a fight today,” Mr. Mamrak used to tell his players during each match. “This is a fight that you do to defend the pride of your country and to bring smile on faces of your sad countrymen.”
The teenage Afghan players went to play against powerful Asian countries, including Iran, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, that had well-trained and well-equipped players to compete for the Asian championship.
Surprising the country, Afghanistan’s U-20 futsal team played well to reach semi-final. Afghan boys played outstandingly well against Thailand, Iran and Hong Kong, and Indonesia in 2019 U-20 futsal championship. Afghan players stood against Hong Kong with full confidence. They defeated Hong Kong and went to play against Indonesia to qualify for semi-final match. Unexpectedly, for the first time, the Afghan team made its way to play against Japan, a powerful and well-trained team in the semi-final match.
“I started playing football in the streets of Tehran, Iran, as a refugee boy,” said Mr. Mamrak, who fled his country in 1984. “I had strong passion for football and I always wanted to play for my country.”
In 2006, Mr. Mamrak returned to his home county and out of sheer passion for football, he started coaching private futsal teams. In 2016, he remarkably achieved the fourth position in the adult championship among Asian countries. In 2017, Mr. Mamrak received “A” license of coaching, a significant achievement in his professional career.
Nemat Rahimi, a sport journalist, says that good coaching in the national futsal team enabled the U-20 futsal players to gain success in the Asian championship. “Low cost of playing futsal compared with other sports is one of many reasons for the success,” said Mr. Rahimi. “Private sectors invested in futsal game and built stadiums for Afghan boys to play futsal.”
Almost in every street of Kabul, many teenage and schoolchildren set up muddy yards as playground for futsal game. With plastic ball, they play to immerse themselves futsal game, and lose themselves in the cheers and screams, as ball moves around the yard.
“The Afghan national team of futsal has great potential to shine in international games,” said Mr. Rahimi. “The government must invest more and equip the team with the best possible equipment.”
The Afghan team stood second in the Asian championship with very basic and limited resources. Mr. Mamrak, the coach of the team, said that each player had received 500 afghanis per day stipend, an amount of money which barely cover their daily foods.
The limited resource of the team does not hold them back to dream high. The players of Afghanistan’s futsal team are working to make their way to the World Futsal Cup in 2020. “We are going to the world cup in 2020 no matter what,” said Mr. Mamrak, with a happy smile on his face.