Australian Oliver Percovich is teaching Afghan kids to skateboard.
It looked like an ordinary neighborhood playground: six children tumbling off their skateboards to the tune of laughter. But only hours before, just 20 yards away, the body of a suicide car bomber was sprawled beside a glistening pool of blood.
But Percovich is determined to overcome the obstacles. He arrived here rather impulsively in early 2007 because his girlfriend at the time had taken a job in Kabul. He gave up his bakery business, stuffed some clothes — and his skateboards — into a bag and left Australia.
Unable to find work, Percovich did what he has done since he was 6. He rode his skateboard, undaunted by the military convoys, pushcarts, donkeys, a suffocating film of dust and occasional car bombings.
“Whenever I turned up, kids gathered around and asked, ‘What is that?’ ” he said, referring to his skateboard. “They’d ask to have a go, and I realized quite fast it’s an excellent way to interact with youth.”
Afghanistan has the highest proportion of school-age children in the world, 1 in 5, according to the United Nations. For a vast majority of these seven million youngsters, sports are virtually nonexistent.
Most public schools, stretched to provide basic materials like desks, do not have playgrounds. Boys play pickup soccer or volleyball games on dusty fields. But sports are an afterthought for most girls, who are discouraged from public gatherings.
Can we please have a movie or a video-game about this? It could be Tony Hawk: Underground meets Kite Runner meets Swing Kids.