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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 01/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) WHY IS the resurgence of sports so important in war-torn countries? Perhaps it's because sporting activities symbolise healing wounds in a society that has suffered enormously due to conflict.

So it's probably not surprising that in post-war Afghanistan, where suicide bombings are still rife, a professional men's boxing match caused such a stir.

The 12-round contest was for the World Boxing Organisation International middleweight belt. The match, in which German-born Afghan boxer Hamid Rahimi defeated Tanzania's Said Mbelwa, took place amid high security in Kabul and was watched by millions of Afghans on TV. Triumphant Rahimi described his win as a fresh beginning for his country and dedicated his belt to his homeland. Organisers had labelled the match a "Fight 4 Peace" and described it as a statement of freedom.

It might seem like just another boxing contest to the outside world, but for Afghanistan, where boxing matches were banned during the end of Taleban's rule, this was a highly anticipated contest. While it's a misconception that the Taleban banned all sports during their rule, they did impose certain restrictions on them. Traditional sports like kite-flying and dog-fighting were banned, women could not participate in sports, and soccer players were required to wear long-sleeve shirts and long shorts to show as less skin as possible.

However, last year has witnessed a conspicuous undoing of these restrictions. For instance, women have been increasingly participating in sports. In fact, the nation sent its first female athlete, Tahmina Kohstani, for the 100-meter sprint at the Olympics this year. And now, a highly publicised boxing match, has successfully taken place, despite the rising threat of Talebanisation in the country.

Recently, suicide bombings have become more rife, with frequent attacks on high-profile weddings and state functionaries during the last few months. The Taleban, in fact, also seem to have expanded their influence beyond their traditional bases in the south and east of the country. Still, people made the seemingly irrational choice of attending the boxing match amid the precarious security situation. However, the people of Afghanistan are very keen to see their war-ravaged country pave its way to normalcy. For the outside world, the boxing match was perhaps nothing more than a fiery exchange of testosterone-driven punches; but it was actually a great victory for the Afghan nation.


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