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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More