Afghan rugby novices dreaming of Wales

Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:21am EDT
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By Daniel Magnowski

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan has had the semblance of a national rugby union team for just a few months, but already they are dreaming of a fixture with the red-shirted World Cup men of Wales.

In capital city Kabul, where armed checkpoints are common and the threat of deadly attacks by militants remains part of everyday life, the rugby squad meet before work for two hours of early-morning training.

Their enthusiasm is infectious, their motivation clear.

"We would love to play Wales, they are the spiritual players of the game," said Asad Ziar, chief executive of the Afghanistan Rugby Federation. "We love the way they play."

While Wales were narrowly losing to Australia in the third place play-off at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, the Afghans lined up at a seven-a-side tournament held on soccer pitches in the high-security International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul.

To avoid injures to soldiers on tours of duty, tackling was off-limits, players instead touching the man in possession to block their progress.

Always quick and competitive, if sometimes guilty of ragged handling and loose organization, the young Afghans lost their first match two tries to one against the reigning British army champions.

For a team whose first experience of the game was at a rugby camp held in Kabul in May, the defeat was no disgrace.   Continued...