Afghanistan: Wheelchair basketball empowers people with disability

Mohammad Saber Sultani, 34, has been a driving force for Kabul’s wheelchair basketball team for over a decade. His journey to the court began in tragedy as he lost both his legs when an unexploded ordnance blew up. He was only three years old at the time. Sultani says he couldn’t help but feel deep disappointment as he grew up watching others walk and live normal lives.

But that outlook on life shifted when a friend introduced him to the ICRC’s wheelchair basketball programme. “Seeing players with even greater disabilities than mine, I realized if they could do it, I could too. 

“From the time I started playing wheelchair basketball, I have forgotten about my disability,” Saber reflects. The sport became his equalizer, a field where he wasn’t defined by his physical limitations. His talent and tenacity quickly shone through – he surpassed his own expectations, earning a spot on the national team and traveling abroad to compete in international tournaments.

Saber’s success has brought more than personal triumph. He and his team have claimed two titles in tournaments in Lebanon and excellent placements in other international competitions, return home to joy, and bask in the pride of his family, friends, and community. His achievements have earned their respect and admiration, shifting how those around him perceive ability and disability

Decades of conflict and gaps in development have left an enduring mark on Afghanistan where over one million people live with some form of physical disability. Since 1988, the ICRC has been at the forefront of supporting affected people through its Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP). The programme helps over 200,000 people every year through seven physical rehabilitation centres across the country. 

We began supporting wheelchair basketball teams in 2012 and now provide technical and financial support. From covering taxi fares so that players can attend practice to supplying specially-adapted wheelchairs to maintaining courts and providing access to good trainers, every detail is considered so that talent can be nurtured.

The sports activities have transformed the lives of many wheelchair basketball players and the ICRC remains committed to its mission to support people with disability, celebrate their achievements, and create a future where they regardless of their disability, can thrive.

Source : Icrc