I just finished my fourth practice with the morning (more experienced) team here in Kabul. Their progress since I arrived has been stunning. As the week has gone on, their focus and excitement has continued to grow and players who could barely catch the ball on the first day are now making shots, dribbling and passing with confidence. They’re also much more comfortable with me and are laughing and joking constantly. I’m having such a blast working with them. It will be bittersweet to finish tomorrow’s final practice and say goodbye before heading north to reunite with my old friends in Maimana.

I had an amazing experience yesterday when I went with a couple of the ICRC physiotherapists to visit two of the players in their homes. This is the first time I’ve visited an Afghan home, and it was truly eye opening. The first player I visited, Shir Padshah, is a double leg amputee (both well above the knee) AND a paraplegic who was injured when a rocket exploded next to him and his father when he was 12 years old. Shir is a quietly confident guy who is a natural leader and clearly has the respect of his teammates. He lives in a small apartment with a narrow set of curving concrete stairs leading to the front door. Since the stairs and door were too narrow for a wheelchair to pass, I had to hoist myself out of my chair and climb them backwards, then move across the ground into the apartment. Shir has to do the same thing every time he leaves the house or comes home. The inside of the apartment is a single open room with no furniture other than a couple carpets and pillows on the ground, and is no more than 150 square feet. He lives with his mother and two sisters and is the sole provider for the family. Unfortunately, he lost his job when the business he owned selling gas from free-standing barrels went under a couple years ago due to Kabul finally getting 24-hour electricity and people no longer needing to run gas generators in their homes. Unbelievable.

I don’t have time to write everything I learned from our conversation, but I will say that he has an amazing attitude and a clear focus on showing the people of Afghanistan that disabled people like him can be role models and contributing members of society. He has a steep hill to climb to realize his vision given current prevailing attitudes here, but Shir has the charisma and force of will to make it happen if anyone does.

I have to run to visit another player’s home now – the previously mentioned motorcycle-sketching madman, Wahidula – so I’ll have to write more later. Thanks for reading; it’s been great to see your comments whenever I get a few minutes online here.