Kabul, February 2013. The rather poor fitness level of the Afghan National Police (ANP) was at the heart of the first meeting between the President of the Afghan Olympic Committee, Mohammad Zaher Aghbar and EUPOL Head of Mission, Karl Åke Roghe. “Especially the leadership of the police and also our army gained weight and we have to slim them down again,” said Aghbar and promised the Afghan police to provide them fitness coaches for free of charge. For this initiative, Karl Åke Roghe, promised him “full support”. Having been an active athlete in kayaking, he knows the value of sport on many levels. “The police must be fit for fight, otherwise they are not able to conduct their tasks and operations properly,” he said. Sports could also be important for the future of the police to prevent crime and gain trust of their communities. Roghe mentioned a basketball match organised by one of the zone commanders in Kabul where police teams were playing against teams of the local communities. He would like to see more of these competitions who are part of the community policing projects: “This is the way how the police can gain the trust of their citizens. Playing together is the way.”

Aghbar couldn’t agree more. He mentioned a friendship football tournament in the Taliban controlled province of Logar where the opposition, the army, the police, the NDS and local communities brought them peacefully together. “This is just another tool to bring all sides together and talk.”

Both the president of the Olympic Committee and EUPOL Head of Mission fully agreed, however, that in order to prevent crime and extremism, children and teenagers should be attracted to sports. This is exactly what is happening already: Skateistan, a project founded by the international community, offers free coaching and rentals for 500 children from all different levels. “Most of them are orphans,” explains Aghbar whilst showing proudly the skating hall, but he stresses: “This is not only about sports but about educating them. When they come here, they first have to attend computer and other classes. Only when they successfully pass them, they can attend the skating classes, and eventually go back to school later.” Aghbar strongly believes that this project is beneficial to their families and the society: “They are not reachable any more to the terrorists.”

Roghe quite impressed by the project promised to “work together on a systematic approach” with the Olympic Committee and also mentioned that EUPOL will organise with the Afghan National Police for the Afghan Youth a football tournament this year.

The Afghan Olympic Committee is the main supporter of sports throughout the country with 800.000 members and 36 federations in 34 provinces. The most popular disciplines are football, basketball and volleyball. 25 percent of the members are female.