Afghan football coach, players disappear in Germany

March 4th, 2009 - 12:11 am ICT by IANS  

Kabul, March 3 (DPA) A trainer and three members of an Afghan youth football team who were training for an upcoming regional competition have disappeared from their hotel in Germany, officials said Tuesday.
The 18 players of the national under-18 team, two trainers and two government officials had gone to the south-western German city of Stuttgart Feb 8 for two weeks of training to prepare for a regional competition to be held in Iran later this year.

“One of the trainers and three players disappeared from their hotel on the evening of Feb 22, which was a day before their departure,” said Kramuddin Karim, head of the Afghan Football Federation.

None of the players or the coach have contacted German authorities or the Afghan Olympic Committee, Karim said, adding that the missing sportsmen might be seeking asylum somewhere in Europe.

Their disappearance was not the first time Afghan athletes have gone missing in Europe.

Nine members of Afghanistan’s national football team who were playing their first game in Europe in 20 years disappeared in 2004 from a training camp in Italy. The players were to take part in a match against an Italian football team to raise money for a hospital in Kabul.

Last year, a female runner who was slated to be the only female Afghan athlete at the Beijing Olympic Games, went missing in Italy, where she received training.

Decades of conflict have caused millions of Afghans to flee their country. Today, unemployment and insecurity caused by Taliban-led insurgents and criminal groups continue to prompt many Afghans to escape to the West.

However, the latest disappearances of Afghan athletes already were negatively impacting other Afghan players.

“Their action would definitely affect our programmes,” Abdul Saboor Walizada, trainer for the Afghan women’s football team said, adding, “Our female players were scheduled to be in Germany by now, but we have not heard anything from the German authorities yet.”

“So that means that because of those people, these poor girls are losing their chance to benefit from training in Germany,” he said.

Walizada said he was concerned that their disappearance would cast doubt on whether any other European countries would invite Afghan athletes to train in the future. If not, it “will be a big blow to the progress of sports in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it will have negative consequences for other athletes and for the opportunities that they might have in future to go to foreign countries and learn more,” said Sayed Mahmood Zai Dashti, deputy chairman for the Afghan Olympic Committee.

“I hope our friendly countries should not see this as an intention for all Afghan sportspeople but rather see it as an individual choice,” he said.

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