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US sports diplomacy's latest target: Afghanistan

A group of Afghan children got to go one on one in their favorite sport with senior U.S. officials and top coaches. NBC's Atia Abawi reports.

KABUL – For Malalai Anwari, there’s only one way to live life in Afghanistan and that’s by playing basketball.

"I couldn’t live without basketball," Anwari, a member of the Afghanistan Women’s National Basketball team, told NBC News. "Basketball is my life."

Anwari’s sentiments reverberated across the campus of Ghazi Olympic Stadium in Kabul last week, where young Afghans were given the chance to practice their favorite sport with senior United States coaches and sports administrators. 

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul working with the Amateur Athletic Union brought in eight sporting officials, including the National Basketball Association's Cares program, to mentor and train both Afghan athletes and coaches in a sports diplomacy initiative. 

About 170 children from 10 different provinces in Afghanistan participated in the four-day event.

Matt Wall, a U.S. embassy public affairs spokesman, said the sporting clinic went beyond shooting hoops in the gym.

“I think there are cultural barriers that we are trying to overcome,” Wall said. “Sports isn’t about religion, females and males, it is about kids who just want an outlet to exercise to play with others.”

At the end of the four-day training camp, each athlete earned both an AAU coaching certificate, and an NBA Cares certificate of completion. 

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