Afghans are among the millions who are following the 2006 World Cup soccer matches in Germany. Afghanistan's national television service and Tolo TV, the country's largest privately owned television station, are providing coverage. Many other Afghans will follow the games on radio.
The sights and sounds of sports events on Afghan television and radio mark a big change from five years ago, when the Taleban regime banned the broadcasting of music, sports, and entertainment. Afghans are playing sports too.
Afghan women and girls, forbidden to play sports under the Taleban, are showing great interest in soccer and other sports. Two Afghan girls will receive an award in July from the U.S. sports television network E-S-P-N. The award honors "contributions that transcend sports," and is given in recognition of Afghanistan's girls soccer league.
Formed in 2004,the Afghan girls soccer league is made up of fifteen teams of girls ranging from twelve to eighteen years of age. "After thirty years of war, Afghan girls can once again become leaders," said Awista Ayub, founder of the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange. "Sports are rapidly becoming the gateway to leadership, peace, and equality in Afghanistan," he said.
For millions of Afghans, sports provide a welcome relief as they struggle to overcome the effects of decades of violence, poverty, and repression. Lately, Taleban insurgents and their al-Qaida allies have been stepping up their attacks. Health care and other essential services are still lacking in many areas. And Afghan girls and women in remote parts of the country are still waiting for the freedom and opportunity enjoyed by Afghans in Kabul and other cities. "We hope and we can never lose hope, in the belief that this society will change," said Afghan women's rights activist Saforaia Walid.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. will help Afghanistan on its road to democracy. "As long as the people of Afghanistan need American partnership," says Ms. Rice, "they're going to have it."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.