Afghan basketballer vows that disability and displacement will not hold him back
In Indonesia, a young basketball-playing refugee strives to move forward, armed with a ball and a hoop.
Mohammad Taqi, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee, counts among his “best friends” the basketball hoop and ball outside his modest house in Jakarta, Indonesia.
As a wheelchair basketball athlete who has contended with months-long COVID lockdowns over the past year, Taqi has spent most of his daily practices in front of the house, drilling and working out in isolation.
Taqi, as he prefers to be called, arrived in Indonesia in October 2017. It was here that he was able to play wheelchair basketball regularly, and he discovered that he had a talent for it. With continuing practice and hard work, the sport has become his passion.
“Basketball gives me hopes, happiness, and new friends. I feel amazing when I am playing. I really enjoy practising, achieving my goals. It makes me forget about the past,” Taqi explains.
Taqi prefers not to discuss his past, neither his forced displacement from his home in Afghanistan nor the medical accident that caused his disability. For him, it is no use remembering things that only bring out negativity. Life as a refugee with a disability is full of challenges, but they have not stopped Taqi from pursuing his passion for basketball. He does not regret his disability.
As a guest player, Taqi had the opportunity to train with the Indonesian national team before they went on to the Asian Paralympic Games in 2018. He has played in several basketball tournaments since his arrival in Indonesia, with a highlight being the Bali Cup tournament in Bali, in which he won the ‘Best Player’ medal.
Although Taqi has been able to join Jakarta Swift Wheelchair Basketball, the first wheelchair basketball organization in Indonesia, a recent injury from strength training has limited his training.
Despite the challenges over the past year brought about by the COVID pandemic and his own injury, Taqi still has high hopes for his future in basketball. Whatever the difficulties, the sport makes him feel good and keeps away the bad memories.
“I really want to be one of the best wheelchair basketball players in the world. I want to prove to myself that I can do it; disability will not hold me back,” says Taqi.