Afghan boxers, their coach and the leader of the Afghanistan Boxing Federation remained in Serbia after the World Championships in Belgrade for fear that they could face revenge from the Taliban upon their return home.

The World Championship was held from October 24 to November 6 in Belgrade, and Afghan boxers trained in secret and prepared for that tournament.

“When the Taliban regime took power in Afghanistan, everything changed. Under the new regime, the new government, it was difficult to get to the World Cup,” said Afghanistan Boxing Union Secretary General Wahidullah Hamedi.

The Afghan team contacted several foreign embassies regarding humanitarian visas and asylum. Some European Union countries rejected their request, but the group of 11 members did not give up.

Tens of thousands of Afghans, including athletes, fled the country in August after the United States withdrew and the Taliban took power.

Hamedi said that the Taliban do not approve of boxing, which is why the members of the team have little chance to continue their careers in Afghanistan.

“As you know, the situation in Afghanistan is very difficult, very bad. At the beginning, they did not allow us to continue training in gyms. Everyone was afraid to go somewhere to train boxing or something else,” he added.

Hamedi’s father, the former Secretary General of the Boxing Federation of Afghanistan, was killed in the 2019 attack. After the national team participated in the Asian Boxing Championship in Dubai in May, Hamedi was determined to bring his boxers to Serbia for the World Championships.

During the previous Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, boxing was banned in Afghanistan. This time, the government tried to look more tolerant, but Hamedi said that the boxers and the leaders of the Alliance received threats and feared for their safety.

“Boxing is ‘haram’ for them, something that is illegal in Islam,” he said.

The boxing team had to hide its plans to participate in the tournament in Belgrade. They first received visas to enter Iran, and then applied for a visa in Tehran to enter Serbia before being allowed to travel to Belgrade.

Their visas have expired since then, and Hamedi said friends and family have warned them not to return to Afghanistan. He said he hoped the entire expedition would get visas soon, as no one wants to cross the border illegally.

Thousands of migrants come to Serbia to reach Western European countries where they can more easily find employment and earn a living.

By Editor

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