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Lessons from Rashid and Afghanistan

Updated: Jul 3

by Shaun Fuentes

While many were left disappointed and felt Afghanistan were left robbed of a fair opportunity in their semi-final outing at the Brian Lara academy due to the poor pitch conditions, resilience and perseverance surely are among several life values that can be inspiring from captain Rashid Khan and his men.

 Despite facing challenges and instability in his home country,  Khan for one has risen to become one of the top cricketers in the world. His journey reflects the importance of staying determined and resilient in the face of adversity. And his success is a result of his relentless hard work and dedication to improving his skills.

Overcoming Conflict and Instability: Khan was born in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, a region that has experienced significant conflict and instability.  His family was displaced due to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and they moved to Pakistan for a period, where they lived as refugees. This experience of displacement added to the difficulties Khan faced growing up along with limited cricket infrastructure where Afghanistan has traditionally had limited  infrastructure compared to other cricketing nations.

Despite this immense personal loss, he continued to perform at a high level, demonstrating his mental toughness and dedication to his career.Several members of the Afghan cricket team have experienced personal losses due to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The exact details and names of players who have lost family members might not always be publicly available due to privacy and security concerns, but it is well-documented that many Afghan players have been deeply affected by the war and the instability in their country. Cricket has often been seen as a source of hope and unity for them and their fellow citizens amidst the turmoil.

In July 2020, Rashid lost his mother, and earlier, in December 2018, he lost his father. While these losses were not directly attributed to the conflict, the overall context of instability and hardship in Afghanistan has affected many players Another cricketer, Mohammad Nabi, has also faced personal tragedies. Again although specific details about his family members lost in the war are not widely publicized, it is known that he and many other Afghan cricketers have grown up in a war-torn country and have faced numerous hardships due to the ongoing conflict.The stories of these cricketers highlight the resilience and determination they have shown in overcoming personal and national adversities.

And yes,  Khan has mentioned in interviews that he grew up watching the "Rambo" movies starring Sylvester Stallone. He has stated that he admired the character of John Rambo for his resilience, bravery, and never-give-up attitude. These qualities have inspired Rashid in his own life and career, particularly in facing and overcoming challenges. The "Rambo" movies were a part of his childhood and had an impact on his mindset and approach to challenges.

Members of the Afghan cricket team

The Afghan captain has also established Rashid Khan Foundation  to support various charitable initiatives in Afghanistan. The foundation focuses on providing healthcare, education, and clean drinking water to underprivileged communities. He has shown a particular interest in supporting hospitals and clinics in underserved areas.Rashid's foundation has been involved in projects to provide clean drinking water to communities in Afghanistan.  

While the resilience of Khan and Afghanistan is notable, research and general views conclude that countries that have experienced wars often excel in sports due to several factors/ People from war-torn regions often develop strong mental toughness, resilience, and determination, traits that are invaluable in sports.

There is the Unity and National Pride factor where  Sports  serve as a unifying force and a source of national pride, especially in countries recovering from conflict. Post-conflict countries may invest in sports programs as part of their recovery and development strategies, recognizing sports as a way to engage youth, promote health, and foster community spirit.

Talent and Opportunity: Hardships can reveal latent talents and abilities. In some cases, talented athletes might be discovered through grassroots programs that emerge in the wake of conflict.Cultural Significance: Sports might have a strong cultural significance in these countries, with traditional games and sports playing a vital role in society.

Some countries that have experienced wars or significant conflicts and have achieved notable success in sports include Haiti, where  despite political instability and natural disasters, the country has produced successful athletes, especially in football. 

Russia has a long history of conflicts, including the world wars and recent geopolitical tensions.

Despite this, it has consistently excelled in sports like gymnastics, athletics, and winter sports. Croatia: Following the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, Croatia has excelled in sports, particularly football, reaching the World Cup final in 2018 and semi final in 2022. Despite ongoing conflicts, Iraq has achieved success in sports such as football, with the national team winning the 2007 Asian Cup. Cuba also has excelled in several Olympic sports.

There is Sierra Leone: Emerging from a brutal civil war, Sierra Leone has seen success in athletics, especially in long-distance running.Ethiopia: While not always due to war, Ethiopia has experienced significant conflicts and instability but is renowned for its dominance in long-distance running. Rwanda: After the genocide in the 1990s, Rwanda has made significant progress in sports like basketball and cycling.South Africa: Post-apartheid South Africa has achieved great success in sports, particularly in rugby, cricket, and athletics.

Closer to home, many have admired the historical resilience and spirit of Jamaica where their fighting spirit developed through Jamaica's history of overcoming colonialism, slavery, and economic challenges contributing to the determination and drive seen in its athletes. It has been documented that Jamaica's history and the Rastafarian movement have indeed contributed to the country's fighting spirit in sports in several ways.

Their history of overcoming slavery, colonialism, and economic challenges has instilled a strong sense of resilience and determination in its people. This historical context contributes to the fighting spirit seen in Jamaican athletes who often embody a "never give up" attitude. The Rastafarian movement, which emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s, emphasizes self-reliance, pride in African heritage, and a spiritual connection to Africa. The pride in Jamaican culture and heritage, partly influenced by Rastafarian principles, creates a strong sense of identity and motivation to excel.  

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson completed a clean sweep of the medals in the 100m. (Via Getty Images)

There is the Music and Motivation side of it where  Reggae music, closely associated with Rastafarianism, often carries messages of resistance, resilience, and empowerment. This music has been source of motivation and inspiration for athletes, fueling their determination and fighting spirit. Prominent figures in Jamaican history and the Rastafarian movement, such as Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, serve as inspirational role models. Their messages of empowerment and self-determination resonate with athletes, encouraging them to strive for excellence.These cultural and historical influences combine to create a unique environment that fosters a strong fighting spirit among Jamaican athletes, contributing to their success in sports.

Take this as something to reflect on. Mull it over and let's see how it can inspire new perspectives or actions for us a society in the world of sport.

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

― Nelson Mandela

About the Author.

Shaun Fuentes is a sport communications professional and writer for the past 27 years. He first joined the Trinidad Guardian in 1997 as a freelance reporter at age 16. He joined the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association as the Men's National Team Press Officer in 2000 and has stayed in the position since. He was a member of the FIFA Media Committee 2007-2009 and has been appointed a FIFA Media Officer at three World Cups - the 2010 South Africa World Cup, 2009 U-17 Men's World Cup in Nigeria and the 2013 U-20 Men's World Cup in Turkey. He has travelled to perform duties in 88 countries across the globe. He writes a column in the Trinidad Guardian on various topics every week.



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