I first met Amir, briefly in Afghanistan in October 2012. He was in a sea of faces of young Afghan men in cycling gear that I was meeting up with at a petrol station on the north side of Kabul to go for a training ride on the Afghan highways.
Several months later we met briefly again once I started working to support the Afghan National Women’s team, but it wasn’t until I brought the girls to Bamiyan for a training camp that we rode together.
We struggled with the same battles with the dysfunction, mismanagement, and corruption of the cycling federation and Coach Seddiqe, but neither could find a good solution. Still we tried.
Subsequent trips to Bamiyan he helped me recover stolen bikes and teach the girls some basic mechanic skills to keep the Liv mountain bikes in good condition against the harsh Afghan elements and lack of professional mechanics.
Last October, I got a message from Amir. He was in Turkey, he had walked across Iran and Turkey and was getting ready to board a boat with dozens more refugees in two days to get to Lesbos. He had been robbed, lost his phone, and was exhausted and scared. I flew to Lesbos, met him, and thanks to a quick Go Fund Me campaign and several friends that stepped up, was able to get him a little money and a new phone. I got him a hotel and made him stay put for several days, resting, eating, and making sure that his next steps were done with clarity, not out of exhaustion and fear. He wanted to go to Sweden, that was always his goal. One month later, he was safely there – with a whole lot of unknowns still ahead. The life of a refugee is fraught with uncertainty, even once you reach a safe place to sleep. Yet he always had a smile, even when boarding the ferry to Athens, exhausted from an already long journey.
We message each other often, he races with a local cycling team and is learning Swedish. He sends photos from training ride and races. He is happy although he misses family and his country. He is learning to adapt to nordic winters.
Today he sent me a link from Sweden of his interview on Swedish tv. You can watch it in full, he speaks English for the interview. Thanks to the sport of cycling, Amir has found a home in Stockholm and a community of support with the local cycling team. He is racing, he has even taken the podium at a recent stage race. Amir is an Afghan story, he is a refugee story, and he is a cycling story. Bravo, Amir, and Bravo Stockholm Cycling Club.