Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Play Golf in Afghanistan

Want to play golf in Afghanistan? Dare to try?

KABUL –– Mohammad Afzal Abdul says he has been jailed twice for playing golf: once in the early 1980s after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and then again by the hardline Taliban government more than 10 years later.

Both times he was accused of being a spy because he mixed with foreigners at the Kabul Golf Club, which sits under the steep wall of the Qargar Dam and looks down a gently sloping valley towards the capital.

Abdul, now the pro at Afghanistan's only golf club, doesn't rule out his hobby landing him in jail again.

The extremist Taliban, who banned all sport including even kite-flying, were removed from government in 2001. But now, as an insurgent movement, they often accuse any Afghan who associates with foreigners of spying -- and have killed several.

"Even right now, I feel some danger," Abdul says in a dusty room, surrounded by donated clubs for hire and caps and t-shirts embroidered with the club logo for sale. "But I won't leave," he says.

"This is a place for fun and people need it. People always need to have a good time, even during war."

Outside Abdul's office, three of his young students dressed in baggy shalwar kamiz tee off from a plastic golf mat and hit practice shots into parched bush.

One of them is 12-year-old Qadir Sarwari. His ambitions? "First I would like to play in a green place," he says.

For him and Abdul, who hopes that one of his students will one day beat him on the course, Tiger Woods is the man to look up to, his fame spreading to Afghanistan through magazines and DVDs brought over by expat players.

Abdul has a message for the star: "Please just once come to Afghanistan to play. Or invite us to your place," he says.

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