Afghan wheelchair basketball star couple debuts in Spain | News | DW | 02.10.2021

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Afghan wheelchair basketball star couple debuts in Spain

Nilofar Bayat, 28, and her husband Ramesh Naik, 27, showed off their game during a friendly in Bilbao. The couple fled Kabul during the airlift with help from the Spanish government and basketball federation.

Afghan national women's wheelchair basketball team captain Nilofar Bayat and her husband Ramesh Naik Zai talk on the court ahead of their debut game in Spain

Afghan national women's wheelchair basketball team captain Nilofar Bayat and her husband Ramesh Naik Zai talk on the court ahead of their debut game in Spain

Nilofar Bayat, 28, an Afghan female Paralympian, made her debut Saturday night for Bidaideak Bilbao BSR, a wheelchair basketball team, playing alongside her husband as the lone woman on the mixed-gender team.

Formerly the captain of the Afghan women's wheelchair basketball team, she and her husband, Ramesh Naik Zai, 27, were offered the chance to play in Bilbao, in northern Spain.

Afghan Paralympic women's wheelchair basketball team captain Nilofar Bayat and her husband, Ramesh Naik Zai, arrive at the Torrejon military base just outside Madrid in August

Afghan Paralympic women's wheelchair basketball team captain Nilofar Bayat and her husband, Ramesh Naik Zai, arrive at the Torrejon military base just outside Madrid in August

Along with 100 other refugees, they arrived in Madrid from Kabul on August 20, during the airlift that the Pentagon says saw 124,000 evacuated from Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul on August 15.

Saturday's friendly match against Fundacion Vital Zuzenak was Bayat's first time playing on a coed team. When the couple rolled onto the court, they were greeted with a standing ovation. 

"It was very new for me, in Afghanistan it's not like this," she said, adding: "The teams are very separated, and we do not play together, but it was very nice."

After the game, the couple were given flowers.

Nilofar Bayat wears a traditional Basque beret and holds flowers on the court after her debut game in Spain

Nilofar Bayat wears a traditional Basque beret and holds flowers on the court after her debut game in Spain

"I have never had this much kindness and this much respect. When I saw how welcoming they are ... I felt that here can be my second home, I can be very happy here," she told Reuters.

Watch video 03:52

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ar/aw (Reuters)