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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid