News>Face Off: Afghans and NATO compete in hockey exhibition
KABUL, AfghanistanThe Kabul International Airport NATO hockey team and the Nuristan provincial field hockey team pose for a group photo at the gymnasium at the Afghan Air Force Base in Kabul, Afghanistan Dec.5. The two teams took part in a friendly exhibition mixing floor and field hockey, with the team from Nuristan coming out on top by a score of 9-3. (Photo by MC2 Vladimir Potapenko/RELEASED)
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Chouinard, an advisor with the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, shoots the puck during an exhibition hockey game between NATO service members and the Nuristan provincial field hockey team at the Afghan Air Force Base gymnasium in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 5. (Photo by MC2 Vladimir Potapenko/RELEASED)
KABUL, Afghanistan - Players tussle in front of the NATO net during an exhibition hockey game between NATO troops and the Nuristan provincial field hockey team at the Afghan Air Force Base gymnasium in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 5. (Photo by MC2 Vladimir Potapenko/RELEASED)
KABUL, Afghanistan - The goalie for the NATO squad eyes the puck during a hockey exhibition between NATO service members and the Nuristan provincial field hockey team at the Afghan Air Force Base gymnasium in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 5. (Photo by MC2 Vladimir Potapenko/RELEASED)
12/6/2010 - KABUL, Afghanistan -- A team comprised of ISAF and NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan service members played the Nuristan provincial field hockey team in a hybrid game of field and floor hockey at the Afghan Air Force Base in Kabul, Afghanistan Dec. 5.
Only taking a week to schedule and plan, the exhibition came as a result of a hockey discussion an interpreter working with NATC-A had with his cousin, Abdul Jhfoor Muristani--the captain of the Nuristan provincial field hockey team, and a member of the Afghan nation team.
When talking to his cousin, Wali, the interpreter, mentioned how he worked with someone who also likes to play hockey. Building on the conversation, Wali connected him with U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Chouinard, an advisor with the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, who runs a weekly hockey pick-up game at Kabul International Airport. Once in contact with one another, the two decided that having a friendly exhibition between troops and Afghans would be a tremendous opportunity for both sides, said Chouinard.
Chouinard says he scheduled the match because he wanted to show Afghans how hockey is played in America, and share with his fellow ISAF and NATC-A players a truly unique experience.
"This game is a once in a lifetime event for most of us playing," he said. "We could lose this game by double digits and I wouldn't care. I'm just excited that I get to play a team that not a lot of other people can say that they have played, especially in the location that we are playing."
Not quite double digits, Chouinard and his squad were defeated by Muristani and his Nuristan provincial team by the score of nine to three.
Using the sticks with plastic blades that more closely resemble North American hockey, the first of the two thirty minute periods was played to a 3-3 tie. But once the switch to field hockey sticks was made in the second period, the Afghans were at a clear advantage as they shot up 6-0 in the period, bringing the final total to 9-3 and a victory for the squad from Nuristan. Following the period, the two sides mixed players and teams for a third, and final, thirty-minute stretch.
"We agreed to play both styles of hockey because we were curious about how the game is played in the other's country. Field hockey is not a male dominant sport in the U.S. like it is in Afghanistan; and they've never seen our hockey sticks before, so they were very curious on how the game is played with ours. Before the match Muristani and I agreed that we would bring extra sticks so when we played, we would have enough for both teams," said Chouinard.
Though they were defeated, members of the NATO team were not distraught; focusing more on the shared experience then the point tally.
"The reason why we mixed the teams at the end is because it was to show that everything was out of friendship. Even though there's a war going on outside the very walls that we protect, the sport of hockey is what brought us all together," said Chouinard.
"This was just great competition and I enjoy playing side by side with the Afghans," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rob Lupton, the airfield management advisor for the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. "Who knows, I may never have this opportunity again."
With another game not scheduled, the two sides may not have a rematch any time soon, but Muristani said that he would love for the NATO team to be able to come outside the gates of the base and play his squad in field hockey on a more traditional surface.
Following the game, Afghan field hockey officials who were on hand for the event, presented the NATO team members with pins and ties recognizing the event and its significance in tying the two sides together through sport. Likewise, in an earlier ceremony, Chouinard presented Muristani and his team with a plaque commemorating the match.
12/12/2010 1:00:28 AM ET i really proud our Nuristan Field hockey teams. its good way to promote games in Afghanistan. Nato and ISAF are donig great jobs keep it up.