Three UD women soccer players have volunteered to team up with the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange (AYSE), a nonprofit dedicated to using sports as a means to promote leadership among children in Afghanistan.


Alli D'Amico, a junior human services, education and public policy major from Manasquan, N.J.; Erica Goldman, a junior finance major from Columbia, Md.; and Courtney Kimmel, a junior sports management major from Rockville, Md., offered to help after attending a lecture, “Reintegration of Afghan Girls through Sports,” by Awista Ayub, founder of AYSE, on Dec. 6.


“We definitely wanted to talk to her because we think it's a great thing that she is doing,” D'Amico said. “Soccer has done so much for us, from teaching us teamwork to building confidence, that we can only imagine what it can do for Afghan girls who have not enjoyed the kind of freedom that we have.”


Goldman said playing soccer has taught her that it is an enjoyable game and also a simple means to build confidence.


“It has taught me cooperation and how to get to where you want to be,” Goldman said. “That's an opportunity that I have that's not always available to other people, so I would like to help them. We'll be looking to raise money and send equipment there; it's easy and it can be done.”


Speaking to an audience of more than 80 students, Ayub, who was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was two years old, said she quit her job as a research chemist in 2004 to run AYSE, which she had formed in 2003.

In June 2004, AYSE helped create the first international girls soccer team from Kabul, the capital, by sponsoring eight young girls who traveled from Afghanistan to the United States.


Two years later, Ayub traveled to Afghanistan along with four Afghan-American soccer coaches and effectively organized a soccer clinic for girls in Kabul. The clinic worked through the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee and the Afghanistan Football Federation and reached out to more than 250 female soccer players in Kabul. Through AYSE, 15 girls' teams have been formed in Afghanistan.


“I decided to work with the youth to help them achieve more personal successes, so that they can take responsibility and develop a sense of ownership in their country,” Ayub said. “Our program is a catalyst, and our success shows that need and desire in the country.”


Last summer, two of the eight girls on the first team, Roia Noor Ahmad and Shamila Kohestani, received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards.


Ayub works at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., where she serves as education and health officer. She received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester in 2002. While in college, she founded the women's ice hockey team at the University of Rochester and also the Northeast Women's Collegiate Hockey Association.


“We've lost an entire generation,” Ayub said of the effects of decades of war and oppressive Taliban rule, which ended with the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. “The impact that's going to be made with the youth has to start today.”