An Unusual Afghan Delegation Visits the Völkl Factory

This past January, Völkl was honored to welcome a pair of unusual Afghani athletes, Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Hosseini, to the factory in Straubing. The two are chasing the same dream: representing their country at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Afghanistan, skiing and Olympic ambitions may seem like an unlikely combination, but it reflects the tremendous dedication of Swiss journalist Christoph Zürcher, who founded the unique social project that continues to support these two athletes. Völkl in its role as Germany's largest ski maker has also contributed actively from the beginning. This should come as no surprise, as social engagement is one of the pillars of the company's philosophy.

This is the second year of training in Switzerland on Völkl skis for Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Hosseini. The driving force behind the project was Swiss newspaper journalist Christoph Zürcher, who was once stationed as a reporter in Afghanistan. When he returned to the Hindu Kush in 2011, he had 400 kilograms of ski gear in tow. Ignoring doubting voices around him, he offered the two skiers now training in Switzerland a hope and confidence that they'd never enjoyed before. Since then, the two racers have made massive improvements and are now participating in national races in Switzerland. Their next race in their home country is scheduled for March, and the excitement is palpable. Alishah Farhang will be serving as the lead organizer for the first time: "I'm doing something for our country. Even our many warring factions should understand that there is a place called Afghanistan that we intend to represent at the Olympic Games." Sajjad Hosseini is entered in the race.

But first the tour in Straubing, where the two athletes had their first chance to see behind the scenes at one of the world's most cutting-edge ski factories. After a group lunch, Christoph Zürcher explained the idea behind the project. Skiing and participation by the two athletes at the Olympic Games is intended to promote unity in war-torn Afghanistan and help encourage integration into the international community. During the Völkl factory tour, the two Afghanis expressed great appreciation for the company's attention to detail and at the same time were surprised by the high degree of automation in ski production. "This project is a very special one for Völkl, because we believe that skiing can bring people together, even across national borders. That made the visit by Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Hosseini a real treat for both sides, with fascinating conversation about the industry for everyone involved," noted Völkl director Christoph Bronder.

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