Afghan women's volleyball team upset by training conditions

HANGZHOU, China -- The Afghanistan women's volleyball team has lamented training conditions at the Asian Games and is concerned it will not be ready for an event where it is participating in defiance of the country's Taliban rulers.

Khushal Malakzai, who runs the nation's volleyball program, said the team had not been able to practice on a court since arriving in Hangzhou last Thursday and was confined to doing fitness work in the gym.

"We still haven't been able to train," he told Reuters on Sunday. "We need to have them training with the ball. I don't know why they can't have training for an hour or two when they have all these facilities.

"If they're not training on court, then it's like starting from zero."

Malakzai said the team had been allocated one training session two days before the women's competition starts Saturday.

Hangzhou Games organizers and the Olympic Council of Asia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Women's sports in Afghanistan has been crushed since the Taliban took over from a Western-backed government in August 2021, causing many female athletes to flee the country for fear of persecution.

With the backing of the OCA and the International Olympic Committee, Afghanistan's exiled national Olympic committee has sent 17 women to compete in athletics, cycling and volleyball at Hangzhou.

The delegation marched at the opening ceremony behind the country's former, tri-color flag which is used by international resistance movements and shunned by the Taliban.