Six years ago Abdul Jamil Sherzad and his friends didn’t even know what parkour was called. “The beauty of it attracted us and we trained daily, just watching online parkour videos,” he says.
Since then, the Kabul Boys Parkour have taken the sport to new heights, training in the ruins of the Presidential Palace and using the city’s many derelict buildings as impromptu gyms.
Their videos are inspiring a new generation of parkour runners in the country and they’re now looking for ways to take their unique skills international – and to build a gym where team members can train safely without fear of picking up serious injuries.
Co-founder Sherzad gives us the lowdown on parkour, Afghan style.
Why do you do parkour?
We believe parkour is not just a sport but it’s a system of living our desired life with passion. Yes, it requires a great deal of energetic and enthusiastic spirit and we believe we have that spirit. Our goal is to sustain hope.
Do you think parkour can change how people see Afghanistan?
We want to represent a positive and beautiful image of Afghanistan to the world. The dream is to participate in parkour jams in different countries and to represent our country in international competitions – and win.
What effect do you think your street runs have?
It’s about motivating and inspiring Afghan youth towards sports and parkour. It’s a new sport here, and we want to make it reach everyone. The street runs, shows and performances help create a peaceful and unique environment.
What does parkour do for your team members?
It spreads positivity, unity, diversity and brotherhood and helps fight against discrimination among the ethnic problems in the country. It also helps youths against using narcotics, smoking and negativity. We want to be the role models for the young generation to fight for their dreams. It’s hard in this country to follow passion and chase dreams but we have to fight, not to give up and to show a fighting spirit to everyone around.
Showing that Kabul has more to it than terror and drug trafficking?
Yep. We have this phrase: those who do not move do not notice their chains. We want to show that Kabul has more to offer. We do parkour to change people’s thinking about Afghanistan and to change our world we train hard every day in this dangerous environment.
What’s happened recently for you guys?
We have ups and downs every day. When the weather gets cold we can train less. We train outdoors without any safety equipment and more and more injuries are happening. On the upside more people are getting to know our team and our parkour mission. Girls and boys are getting more inspired and motivated by our training and our videos. The art of parkour is spreading across the country.
What’s the big dream?
Obviously we want to join international competitions. But we really need to create a gym where we can train the young generation safely. We need to develop our skills, make them more polished and advanced and prevent the injuries our team members face during training outdoors. We need a standard parkour gym with safety equipment. We want to spread this art across country among youths who are really passionate to learn.