Leadership and Communication Training Programme for the Afghanistan U-18 Women’s Football Team Held in Hiroshima

25 April 2017, Hiroshima, Japan – The UNITAR Hiroshima Office recently completed its Leadership and Communication Training Programme for the Afghanistan U-18 Women’s Football Team. Held from 24 March – 3 April 2017, the programme featured key leadership and communication training, as well as football skills building. This was augmented by deep engagement with the Hiroshima community, including multiple school visits, guest speakers, and a friendly match with local professional football team Angeviolet Hiroshima’s U-18 team.

Afghanistan U-18 Women's Football TeamAfter the 15 participants – 12 players and three officials – arrived in Hiroshima, the training began with lessons on the bombing and recovery of Hiroshima. Participants toured hibakujumoku (atomic-bombed trees), visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, offered flowers at the Park’s Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims, and listened to a testimony delivered by Mayu Yasuda, a third-generation hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivor). During a press conference, the team’s captain, Malalai Saeedi, said, "Looking at the photos in the Museum, at first I was sad, but I was deeply moved by how the people of Hiroshima worked together to rebuild their city. I’ll tell my family and friends back in Afghanistan about what I’ve learned."

Presentations delivered through the programme included mental strength training, women’s leadership, communication skills, and team-building. Guest lecturers included Takuya Endo, Angeviolet’s mental strength trainer, Meena Momand, a Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) Peace Participant from Afghanistan, and Akiko Minato, President of Hiroshima Jogakuin University. Participants enjoyed group exercises and were always keen to share their thoughts and opinions.

The team visited Bunkyo High School and Jogakuin High School as part of their study tours around Hiroshima. At Bunkyo, students introduced participants to three traditional Japanese art forms: taiko (Japanese drumming), tea ceremony, and calligraphy. The Jogakuin visit involved a school tour, as well as presentations from both the Afghan team and Japanese students about their respective activities. Students and footballers ate lunch together and engaged in boisterous games afterward. In all their interactions with local youth, participants quickly made friends despite the language barrier.

Leadership and communication training programme for the Afghanistan U-18 Women's Football Team in HiroshimaFootball practice and communication with local women athletes was also a major component of the programme. The Afghan team had opportunities to practice with Angeviolet’s U-18 squad and the Misasa Elementary School football club, as well as chances to speak with the Angeviolet top team and the Hiroshima University of Economics football club. Participants were eager to ask about how their Japanese counterparts trained and their reasons for playing football. A strategy session with the Angeviolet U-18 team’s coach proved to be a particularly valuable experience, as the coach encouraged participants to always look forward, especially when they fall behind in a match.

On the penultimate last day, participants relaxed as they toured nearby Miyajima Island, guided by the Nishi Rotary Club, and attended a match of local men’s football team, Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The Hiroshima Peace Soccer Festival, graciously hosted by Angeviolet to coincide with the programme, was held on the Afghans’ final day. The Afghan team played a friendly match against the Angeviolet U-18 team. Although they faced a tough opponent, the Afghan team again showed their outstanding character both during and after the match. Captain Malalai Saeedi reflected, “Angeviolet taught us the strength of cooperation, and we want to contribute to peace in Afghanistan through football.”

Photo 1: Afghanistan U-18 Women’s Football Team

Photo 2: Team member experiencing the Japanese drummnig