The team won six consecutive games at the tournament, concluding with a 16-9 win against Turkmenistan in the June 19 final at Fengxiang Beach in Haiyang, China. It was the first team gold for Afghanistan at an Olympic Council of Asia event.
Asefi, a 2004 graduate of West, joined the Afghanistan National Basketball Team in 2008 and has helped the team make history for his parents’ homeland. At the 11th South Asian Games in Bangladesh in 2010, he was a member of that team as it won the first-ever gold medal for an Afghan basketball team.
The Asian Beach Games, which ran from June 12 to 22, attracted more than 1,600 athletes from 45 countries. There were 16 teams in the basketball tournament, and the Afghan team played teams from Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal and Palestine, in addition to two against Turkmenistan.
The Afghanistan National Team has strong ties to the United States. Three of the four players came from the U.S. and the team’s coach, Mamo Rafiq, is from Sacramento. All members have connections to Afghanistan. Asefi’s parents are from Afghanistan and moved to the U.S. in 1980, shortly after the Soviet invasion of the country. He was born in Hayward, and his participation on the Afghan basketball team is one of the ways he stays connected to family members in Afghanistan.
The team was unable to visit Afghanistan in June because of security
issues, but Asefi said fans from Afghanistan attended the games, and the team also received a phone call of encouragement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai as they got into the tournament.
Asefi added that the appreciation of Afghan sports fans made the trip worthwhile, regardless of how the team finished.
“We’re hoping it’s a building block for future generations and sets a foundation for the future,” Asefi said. “If we can give kids hope and give them a foundation to achieve, it might motivate them.”
Asefi is in training at the San Jose Police Academy, but he got time off to go to the games.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.