News / Asia

International Football Returns to War-Ravaged Afghanistan

Pakistan's goalkeeper Saqib Hanif (L) jumps to make a save during a friendly football match against Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2013.
Pakistan's goalkeeper Saqib Hanif (L) jumps to make a save during a friendly football match against Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
Afghanistan’s national football team beat neighboring Pakistan 3-0 in the first international match the war-ravaged country hosted in Kabul in a decade. The game was telecast live in Pakistan, and officials on both sides of the border hope the increased sporting ties will help boost efforts to ease bilateral political tensions.

The so-called “Friendship Match” played in a newly-built stadium in Kabul was the first encounter between the national teams of Afghanistan and Pakistan after a gap of 36 years. It also marked the return of international football to the war-ravaged nation since 2003 when the Afghan team won a game against visiting Turkmenistan 1-0.

Safety concerns have prevented foreign teams from visiting Afghanistan, and security was tight for Tuesday’s match, played in front of a sellout crowd of 6,000, including a number of female spectators.   

Afghanistan is ranked at 139th in the world by FIFA and Pakistan even lower on the list at 167th. The difference was evident on the field where the host team dominated the game from the start. The Afghan defense did not allow a goal and regularly mounted attacks toward the Pakistani net.

Speaking afterward, officials on both sides said that despite prevailing political tensions, the soccer match was a strong indication of improving cultural and sporting ties.

Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Umer Daudzai said the two countries need to further enhance these ties, saying they also will help strengthen anti-militancy efforts on both sides of the border.

“Our cricket team is born [in refugee camps] in Pakistan and trained and coached mostly by Pakistani team. They are now an international team and maybe soon they will [also] defeat Pakistan," said Daudzai. "These are all civilized interactions. And the uncivilized interaction is those [militant] sanctuaries, those suicide vests, those bombs and explosives. We have to get rid of that. We have to replace the uncivilized interaction with civilized interaction.

Bilateral relations have deteriorated in recent years with both Pakistan and Afghanistan trading allegations of harboring insurgents in each other’s territory. Afghan leaders blame Pakistani intelligence agencies for fueling the Taliban insurgency in their country, a charge Islamabad denies.

President of Pakistan Football Federation Faisal Saleh Hayat said that along with his Afghan counterparts, more matches are being planned in the future. He praised the large number of Afghans who showed up to watch Tuesday’s match.

Afghan football fans watch a friendly match between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug., 20, 2013.Afghan football fans watch a friendly match between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug., 20, 2013.
x
Afghan football fans watch a friendly match between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug., 20, 2013.
Afghan football fans watch a friendly match between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug., 20, 2013.
He told VOA the Friendship Match will "hopefully be a healer of many wounds" between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“We hope that the massive participation of the Afghan people will help in improving the people-to-people contact between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and at the same time help to alleviate those apprehensions and unfounded fears in certain Afghan circles whereby Pakistan is always accused of several things which Pakistan has never really stood for,” said Hayat.

The football match came as Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, is expected to pay an official visit to Pakistan later this month, and officials in both nations hope his discussions with leaders in Islamabad will help reduce political tensions.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid