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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid