Sport­ing chance

A 5-year-old Afghan refugee is putting his night­mare start to life be­hind him thanks to a cricket char­ity in New Zealand, writes Libby Wil­son.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

IN his short life, 5-year-old Muham­mad has had to deal with his fa­ther’s mur­der, flee­ing from Afghanistan and mov­ing to the other side of the world.

How­ever, his mother hopes play­ing cricket will now help him for­get all they had to en­dure.

She’s still wor­ried the death threats could fol­low them to New Zealand, so she has adopted the alias Shogofa for their safety.

‘‘I said to my­self that one day my son will be a su­per­star for New Zealand. And I will be a per­son to work hard for New Zealand be­cause, in bad times, New Zealand helped us and one day I will help back,’’ she said.

That dream is sup­ported by Hamil­ton-based so­cial en­ter­prise The Water­boy, a group which links spon­sors and kids who wouldn’t oth­er­wise be able to play sport.

Muham­mad will now get men­tor­ing, paid fees and trans­port – and he’s al­ready met Black Caps crick­eter Tim Southee, who fell in love with cricket when he was about Muham­mad’s age.

On Mon­day af­ter­noon, Muham­mad donned a gold­de­tailed Mum­bai In­di­ans shirt from Southee for a game of back­yard cricket on the out­skirts of Hamil­ton.

It’s a mov­ing sight for Shogofa. In Afghanistan, she helped oth­ers – mainly women – with projects such as lit­er­acy and chicken farm­ing.

But the Tal­iban didn’t like that and she got the first threat­en­ing call from them in 2013.

‘‘They said my full name ... Ev­ery­thing about me. You just feel that he’s in front of you. Even, he said, ‘Now we know which colour you’re wear­ing ... Just stop your projects, oth­er­wise we’re go­ing to de­stroy you and your fam­ily’.’’

Later that year, while Shogofa was six months preg­nant, mil­i­tants shot her hus­band – and their driver – when he went with her on a pro­ject.

S The threats also con­trib­uted to her need­ing an early C-sec­tion but, trag­i­cally, her new­born daugh­ter died.

It was late 2014 when Shogofa left ev­ery­thing and took Muham­mad to the bor­der with Pak­istan.

She bribed her way across with­out a pass­port, she said, then pre­tended to be dead in the back of an am­bu­lance.

After months in Pak­istan – of­ten go­ing days with­out food – Shogofa heard they could come to New Zealand as refugees.

But her free­dom in New Zealand was short­lived as she and her son be­came the tar­get of racist at­tacks soon after mov­ing into their Hamil­ton Hous­ing New Zealand home in 2015.

Peo­ple told her to leave, knocked on her door late at night, call­ing ‘‘we want to talk to you, hey, mus­lim’’, and dumped rub­bish on her lawn.

A fam­ily who helped Shogofa with her lawns even­tu­ally came to their res­cue and took them into their home.

‘‘Some­times peo­ple might say it’s like a movie, but my life is like a movie. Still, I’m fight­ing with my life but I will never lose my pas­sion.’’

The Water­boy founder Tom Nabbs said Shogofa is an in­cred­i­ble woman.

‘‘Her ob­jec­tive is to make a bet­ter life with her son. Hope­fully we’re help­ing her achieve it.’’

Nick and Ceri Row­land, who are pay­ing for Muham­mad’s cricket, said they were happy to be in­volved. ‘‘No-one in New Zealand can re­ally un­der­stand what this fam­ily’s been through,’’ Nick said.

One day my son will be a su­per­star for New Zealand. And I will be a per­son to work hard for New Zealand be­cause, in bad times, New Zealand helped us and one day I will help back.’ SHOGOFA

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