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Based on an interview I had with a female player called Nilofar (29 years old originally from Afghanistan). I spoke to her at UM sports ‘free to play’ basketball session, on 14th March 2018. This is all from memory because I didn’t get a recording of the interview and was too busy drawing her to write notes

Our story begins with a young child who lives in Afghanistan.
She plays ball games with her friends on the street. She loved games that involved a ball. She could bounce them off walls... Throw them as high as she could… And score goals in the basketball hoop!
Her family move to Maastricht because of the war and they build a new life, she holds on to her love of ball sports.
So when she starts high school she joins the basketball team. People laugh at her because she is short and tell her she could never be a basketball player. But she is determined to prove them wrong, and she loves this sport.
She spends all her free time on the basketball court. Her parents warm her not to lose sight of her studies.

She doesn’t listen to them and starts to fail classes.

When the headteacher calls her into his office to talk., she worries she will get expelled for failing so much.
But the headteacher sees her talent and helps her apply for a professional youth team. “Strive for Greatness”, he says. This is the best news ever! Everyone is so pleased that she is being encouraged, and she can’t contain her relief at not being expelled from school!

THE YEARS PASS...

After playing in the youth team for a few years. She applies for the ‘Limburg United’ ladies team, and they invite her to the tryouts.
She sits by her calendar counting down the days until she can prove herself to everyone.
Until the day finally arrives...
Walking onto the court she is nervous; the crowd is busy. This is the biggest game of her life. The pressure is intense. And the atmosphere is electric.

In an attempt to prove herself she goes for a slam-dunk.

The room is quiet, all eyes are on her.

For a moment it looks like she might not get it in.

It goes in! The crowd goes wild! She’s definitely got into the team!
She loses focus and lands badly, pain bursts through her knee.

She is rushed off the court to see the medic.

The medic tells her she has suffered ‘Anterior Cruciate Ligament’ damage. She will never play professionally again.
She is distraught, she let everyone down. Her dreams are over.
The next few weeks are a blur, without her sports the days seem to blend into one.
Her old headteacher comes to visit and offers a solution. They need a new sports teacher, to help coach the young children of the school. He thinks she would be perfect for the job, despite her injury!
She still loves basketball but now she can teach others, which she loves. And they are all the same height as her!
She encourages them to “Strive for Greatness”, like her headteacher once told her to do.

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