Bump, Set, Spike

A chance venture to a West Point volleyball match revived neglected-but-powerful memories of Afghan volleyball prowess. I had the pleasure to watch Afghan soldiers and our translators play many times, and only the best Americans could stay on the court with them. Afghans rarely looked physically imposing, but their soaring leaps and obvious tactical savvy testified to long hours practicing in their provincial hometowns.

Every evening in Khowst, Afghans gathered by the hundreds to play volleyball, soccer, and cricket. We would see the enclaves of competitors and spectators in constant succession as we drove back to camp at the end of the mission of the day. Nothing rendered a keener sense of a possible return to normalcy than the sight of these sports-mad and community-minded people expending their energy on the “fields of friendly strife,” as the saying goes.

But the popularity of cricket manifested the presence of Pakistan-born Pashtuns in Afghanistan, with all that entailed. While we were there, one of the local stars was arrested for participating in Taliban attacks. And the flurry of friendly athletic endeavor at dusk quickly gave way to the stillness of night, when Afghan villages closed down tight, save for the movements of insurgent IED, rocket, and mortar teams and the American and Afghan soldiers who hunted them.


2 Responses to “Bump, Set, Spike”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Re: your final paragraph: reformat and you’ve got a poem! Pete Molin, the Siegfried Sassoon of the War in Afghanistan!


  2. Peter Molin Says:

    Too kind, Chris, too kind.

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