AAU Taekwondo forges relationship with Afghanistan National Olympic Committee

Friell-ANOC

Written by: Kristina Haumschild

Lake Buena Vista– AAU Taekwondo National Chair Mike Friello and a couple of his executive chairs, Mark Glamb and David McClosky, had the great pleasure of meeting with the Afghan National Olympic Committee (ANOC) several weeks back.

Hosted by AAU National Headquarters, the ANOC traveled to the United States for a week-intensive trip to gain insight on how to rebuild their youth sports programs. They met with top sports companies including: the AAU, ESPN Wide World of Sports, IMG Academies, Miami Park and Recreation facilities, and the United States Olympic Headquarters. (CLICK HERE to view the photo gallery from their trip)

Sitting around the dinner table at Bistro Mezzaluna in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Friello had the opportunity to discuss the structure of AAU Taekwondo including districts, regionals and nationals. He also learned about their martial arts programs in Afghanistan.

“They have a large taekwondo program over in Afghanistan,” said Friello, when asked about their discussion. “I knew taekwondo was pretty popular over there, but I was surprised to find out they have over 37,000 members.”

There are many misconceptions Americans associate with Afghanistan.

“The majority of our perception is shaped by the media and newspapers about all the negatives going on,” said Friello, “but what became clear [through our conversation] was that there was normalcy. There are a lot of positive things going on.”

Friello and fellow executive members also realized that Americans take sports for granted.

“We only think about how sports relate solely to the sports world,” said Friello. “We don’t think about the greater meaning of sports sometimes. For them [ANOC], they want to use sports to save the youth of their country from the Taliban.”

Friello has been involved with martial arts since 1968. He’s had numerous opportunities to strengthen martial arts within the AAU and around the world. While conversing with the delegates, he was presented with another opportunity. Lieutenant General Zahir Aghbar, President of the Afghan National Olympic Committee, extended an offer to visit their taekwondo program in Afghanistan.

Friello is seriously considering the trip overseas.

“If I can help them accomplish their goals, I’d like to help.”

In the meantime, Friello is working with Navy Rear Admiral Hal Pittman, a long time AAU member who initiated the contact between the ANOC and AAU, to bring a team from Afghanistan to participate in either the 2012 Taekwondo National Championships in Ft. Lauderdale or the 2012 AAU Jr. Olympic Games in Houston, TX.

There’s so much potential for Friello and AAU Taekwondo to help grow youth sports in Afghanistan.

“It goes to show you the reach AAU can have around the world,” said Friello.

AAU directors, along with the United States Olympic Committee President, are still working out details about the possible trip to Afghanistan in 2012.

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For more information about AAU Taekwondo, visit www.aautaekwondo.org.

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