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Sport Offers Chance to Beat Drugs

Young people say there aren’t enough sports facilities.
By for IWPR
At a private club in Lashkar Gah, young men are practicing the martial art of wushu. Twenty-year-old Maiwand takes a break to explain why he’s so obsessed with the sport.

“Exercise is so beneficial that if a person who doesn’t do it gets sick four times, the person who does will only fall sick twice,” he says.

Ustad Mato Khan Mutaqi built the club with his own money, and says he wants it to help people stay healthy and drug-free.

“I have people here as old as 35 who were addicts. I got them into this sport and they’ve stopped taking drugs,” he says.

He wants the authorities to help, too. “The government has not given us any assistance. We rented this place on our own and we are spending money out of our own pockets.”

The head of Helmand’s sports department, Ghulam Ghaus Amiri, says the international Provincial Reconstruction Team, PRT, has promised to help support athletes in the city.

“Work on a stadium started two years ago and now it is 90 per cent complete. It has 19 sports clubs, all of them be built by the PRT,” he says.

Sports facilities will help keep young people off drugs, according to Faiz Mohammad, a 20-year-old who is hanging out in the street in dirty clothes and long, unwashed hair.

“In my village, there was only ‘bujali’ [a gambling game played with sheep bones] and smoking – nothing else. I started smoking cigarettes, and then opium. If there had been any sports, I would have done that and I wouldn’t be an addict,” he says.

Back at the wushu club, 20-year-old Zemarai says his hobby helped him to conquer his addiction to tobacco.

“I used to smoke. Now I am practicing [wushu] and I have quit smoking. Anybody who practices it can stop any bad habit,” he says.

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