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By ESPN Staff

Afghan girls spreading sport of soccer to win ESPY

A group of Afghan female athletes who are spreading the sport of soccer to their fellow countrywomen will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPYs.

The girls play in organized soccer leagues in Afghanistan. The leagues formed after a handful of Afghan girls traveled to the United States in the summer of 2004 to attend soccer clinics as part of the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange. Two of girls who visited the U.S. that summer and still play soccer -- Shamila Kohestani, 18, and Roia Ahmad, 16, will accept the award.

"Just five years removed from the Taliban's rule, these girls are helping to spark a women's revolution by simply playing a sport that they love," said Maura Mandt, executive producer of the 2006 ESPYs. "The young girls that we are honoring are showing the same courage that Arthur Ashe showed when he went to South Africa during apartheid: using sports to further freedom. We are glad to be able to help them share their story with the world, as the idea of female athletes competing in the open becomes more acceptable in their home country."

There are currently 15 teams consisting of girls ages 12 to 18 playing in Kabul, practicing in traditional head-to-toe dress.

The 2006 ESPY Awards will be televised July 16 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.