Wheelchair basketball in Afghanistan has taken another huge leap forward; the Afghanistan Men’s National Team has been named as a participant at the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Asia-Oceania Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Japan this October! The Championships are the regional qualifying tournament for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil and will be Afghanistan’s first opportunity to play in an official IWBF competition against national teams from other countries, several of which rank among the best in the world.

Ever since becoming an IWBF member in April, the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of Afghanistan (WBFA) has been working to get the Afghanistan team invited to be a part of this very important tournament. It didn’t look like there was a chance that we would be included, as the tournament field had been set over a year ago, well before Afghanistan had even applied for membership in the IWBF. We were all assuming that we would have to continue to wait to experience our first official international competition when, in a surprise last-minute development, the IWBF informed us that it was expanding the tournament from 10 to 12 teams and that we were one of the two additions to the field. Afghanistan is in!

The IWBF Asia-Oceania Championships will take place from October 10th to 18th. The top three finishers will earn the region’s positions at the Paralympics next summer. Most important for the Afghans, though, will be having the opportunity to play against so many great teams from around their region of the world while becoming a true member of the global wheelchair basketball community for the first time. It will be an amazing learning experience for all of them on so many different levels.

I will be traveling to India to conduct a series of previously-scheduled wheelchair basketball courses over the first two weeks of September, then heading directly from there to Afghanistan to spend two weeks preparing the men’s national team before going with them to Japan as their head coach. I’ll relay as many experiences as I can here on my blog, so stay tuned for what are sure to be some fantastic stories coming soon.

Congratulations to the 2015 Afghanistan Men’s National Team – you will make your country proud!