From the ruins of an iconic bombed-out palace above Kabul, a young Afghan man bearing the most striking resemblance to kung fu legend Bruce Lee is high-kicking his way to global internet fame, and just as is the commitment of even our team here at Newsivity, he is aiming to show another side to his war-weary nation.
We heard about Abbas Alizada, who is 20 years old and lives in Kabul when we by chance stumbled on his profile a few weeks ago and we had planned to reach out… but before we did from our side, it seems the newsrooms of the world had also heard of him and to our joy he is being given the wide attention he so deserves. Such is the power of how fast communication can spread… which confirms what we already know, that good news can travel just as fast as the kind of news we are fed daily in the mainstream headlines.
Videos and photos of Abbas Alizada posted online show him performing back flips and striking Lee’s famous poses. They blazed through Afghanistan’s small Internet community only this week, and part of a publicity burst he hopes will catapult him to broader fame.
“I want to be Afghan Bruce lee in the future not only in Afghanistan but a symbol of Bruce lee in the world, I dream to be a champion as Bruce lee was and my great ambition is to be a Hollywood star in the future.” Abbas Alizada said at Kabul’s desolate Darulaman Palace, where he trains twice a week, swirling nunchuks and sporting a Lee-like bowl haircut.
“I have learned nunchuks techniques professionally from Bruce Lee by watching his action movies.” said Alizada
Alizada showed off his wiry physique, doing push-ups on his fingertips and sparring with a partner. He clearly is one of the most uncanny doppelgängers of the late action hero… someone who I have personally even been obsessed with since as far back as I can remember, and who diverted my own youth energies towards the positive avenues of sport and martial arts as opposed to the many other temptations during everyones days of youth. My office to this day is filled with Bruce Lee memorabilia and his life philosophy is something that remains in my mindset daily, almost unconsciously.
What is even more apparent with Abbas is that he conveys a steel determination and beyond just being a lookalike, he is actually phenomenally talented and trains hard to become a world champion. This is a very similar determination found amongst talent that is nurtured and is also raw on many levels in unstable, war-ridden territories of the world. Even from the philosophy of Bruce Lee himself, epitomising a different kind of ‘struggle’ that breeds strength of mind, body and fighting spirit.
Alizada is from a poor family of 10 children. His parents could not afford the fees at an academy of Wushu, a Chinese mixed martial art, but the trainer took him under his wing. He rejects the name Bruce Hazara given to him by friends in recognition to his ethnic heritage, saying he prefers to be known as the Afghan Bruce Lee in a country riven by tribal rifts.
Such questions of national unity are poignant in Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency is flexing its muscles with near-daily attacks that have made 2014 the war’s bloodiest year as foreign troops drastically reduce their presence.
“I ask the Afghan national Olympic committee and international donors to provide us assistance. If we receive assistance from Afghan committee and donors I promise to make Abbas a unique star in the world,” said Ali Qahar, teacher of Abbas Alizada.
Alizada’s recent success on the Internet and at a marital arts tournament in Kabul reflects changes since the U.S.-led intervention toppled the Taliban regime after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Nobody has supported me as of yet in Afghanistan, my talent is hidden – neither the government nor anybody else supports me in my sport careers, I do my best using my own resources to become a champion for my country in the future,” said Abbas Alizada
Abbas Alizada now has the attention of the world… and we are confident that he will gain the support needed to fulfil his personal dreams and ambitions, but beyond this, remain true to his core motivation and that is to do on some level what Bruce Lee once did himself… represent his culture, identity on a global platform and inspire his own nation and it’s incredibly spirited people.
* Having just spoken to Abbas just today by phone, he is overwhelmed by the instant overnight attention by the worlds media but is excited to see where this attention will take his journey. He has a good support network in place in terms of family, and we hope the wider media circus is responsible in the way in which they assist someone who is determined to make a difference on behalf of his evolving nation.
The other area worth mentioning as added food for thought is that when any news spreads at lightning speed, and very much from our experience both in and outside of the newsrooms… there has also come about quite an ugly ‘viral’ culture, jumped on and driven nowadays by a network of some of the most powerful corporate brands of the world… in many cases the lives at the centre of a story from sometimes quite remote and ‘untouched’ regions become overnight commodities with a very short lifespan.
Imagine for example if you will… being a person, living a simple and humble existence, and suddenly you have the worlds media circus knocking on your door to get a quote, an interview, pictures of you… and then after the hype slows, you are left to deal with the dynamics. We certainly hope that isn’t the case in this instance… and I am instantly intrigued to what kind of reaction is happening in live-time locally with Kabul’s new global viral sensation. I’ll save the detailed case stories we have heard and also seen first-hand for another time.
For now… this is for me personally a perfect, and quite poetic tribute and homage to the memory of a timeless hero to many… and to close with the wise words of Bruce Lee himself…
Helped by the spread of TV and the Internet, Afghanistan has witnessed a rapid rise in interest in sports in the past few years under the government that succeeded the hard-line Taliban regime that banned television and many sports and martial arts. We personally hope to be able to visit Kabul at some point in 2015 as has been a previous desire since we connected with colleagues on the ground in 2013, at the time running the nations first rock music festival. Watch this space in 2015…