The Afghan team at the Invictus Games in Toronto came away with more than just two medals. Over $23,000 was raised by Ontario’s Paiwastoon Community, an Afghan social and settlement organization, to support the players financially.
Afghans from all over the province came to congratulate and support their national heroes during a dinner at the Thorncliffe Banquet Hall in the East York Town Centre on Sept. 29. They welcomed the Afghan national team’s seven players, a coach and the team leader.
Mohammad Essa Akbari, 23, won a silver medal both at the men’s lightweight (powerlifting) championship, while Nasir Ahmad Halimi, 28, won bronze. Both former soldiers lost their legs because of roadside bombs while fighting insurgents in Afghanistan.
Sharif Mumin, president of the Paiwastoon Community, said this program was organized to appreciate the wounded soldiers who came here to participate in the Invictus games. He said these are the soldiers who lost parts of their bodies in the war zone.
“Everyone came here to support their heroes, to show their love with their wounded soldiers and to show their love with their country,” Mumin said.
The Invictus team leader, Sgt. Maj. Roshan Safi, said Afghanistan has been in a war for the last 38 years, and it is going take a long time to recover from all the damage.
“If a person swims for ten metres into the deep water he has to swim ten metres back to the safety,” Safi said.
Safi, 50, from Tagab, in Kapisa Province, is the first Afghan noncommissioned officer to graduate from a U.S. military Sergeants Major Academy in Texas, in 2006. He joined the Afghan army in 2001, and now holds a senior position in the country’s national defence force.
As team leader, Safi has a plan for the team for beyond this edition of the Invictus Games.
“We are not here to lose or win, in fact we are here to find our weakest points so we can get better in the future.”
He said they were nervous before arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, but the local Afghans and Canadians exceptional welcome boosted their morale.
“Due to the huge support of the Afghan community the outcome was quite visible and we won a silver and a bronze,” Safi said.
The local Member of Parliament for Don Valley West, Rob Oliphant said he is proud to welcome men of such courage, grace and dignity. He called the Invictus games a wonderful opportunity for Canada to celebrate a remarkable achievement.
“These are emotional and mental achievements of people who have given everything to make our world a better place,” Oliphant told the audience.
This was the third time that Afghanistan’s team participated in the Invictus games. These seven athletes were chosen from a total of 70; it was the largest team from the country to date.