By Padraic Halpin
LONDON (Reuters) - Afghan boxer Ajmal Faisal did not think he would make it to the London Olympics - his training sessions were prohibitively expensive and more often than not restricted by Taliban or political party opposition.
Yet on Monday Faisal became Afghanistan's sole representative at the boxing arena and only its second Games fighter since U.S. forces began bombing the country in retaliation against its Taliban rulers' refusal to hand over the al Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The 21-year-old flyweight, who lives outside Kabul and when he was able to, would have to pay 80 to 90 Afghani rupees ($1.66-1.86) to train in the city, put his participation down to a pre-Olympic training camp in Cardiff for boxers from developing and underprivileged countries.
"Restrictions are imposed because of political opposition and the Taliban," Faisal said through a translator minutes after losing his first round bout to France's Nordine Oubaali.
"I didn't have enough facilities and was paying for my own equipment and training ... we were not allowed to train as free as we'd like to.
"The training that was held in Cardiff enabled me to compete and last for three rounds against a very tough opponent."
Along with 63 boxers from the likes of Burkina Faso, Bahamas and Bosnia, Faisal spent two months on the 'Road to London' camp where his flights, accommodation and equipment were paid for by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
Fighting in possibly the most competitive weight category on Monday however, the Afghan national champion was still no match for former world amateur bronze medalist Oubaali whose nifty footwork and rapid fire combinations delivered a 22-9 victory.
Oubaali, one of 18 children in a family packed full of boxers, faces American third seed Raushee Warren in Friday's second round.
($1=48.28 Afghan rupees)
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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