NPR’s Sean Carberry was at today’s game; he filed this report for our Newscast unit:
“Thousands of fans, and hundreds of security forces, packed into the small stadium in Kabul. After a slow start, the Afghan team scored, and then never let Pakistan back into the game.
“Abdullah is a street vendor who paid about three dollars for his ticket.
“‘Afghans have suffered 30 years of war,’ he says in Dari, ‘so we need this kind of entertainment.’
“But Mohammad Yousef Kargar, the coach of the Afghan team, says the game was about more than entertainment.
“‘So, one of the prime objectives of this match was to bring two nations together,’ he says.
As Sean reports, the 3-0 win certainly united the Afghans. The game is the first in a scheduled home-and-home series between the two nations. It also served as revenge of a sort, as Afghanistan’s victory came one day after its national under-23 team in cricket.
Read other articles with extracts and photos — a hugely important story.
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.
He told VOA the Friendship Match will “hopefully be a healer of many wounds” between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, a vice president of FIFA, congratulated the Afghan side.
“A historic day for Afghan football. Congrats to Afghanistan on hosting their first international match in over a decade and winning it!” He tweeted.
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A number of women attended the match in a separate section, a rare sight in conservative Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan Football Federation chairman Karamudeen Karim said the match “will open the door for other countries to visit Afghanistan and to play this fantastic game. The Afghanistan-Pakistan Friendship match will also give positive signals of normalcy in Afghanistan.”
KABUL: Afghanistan’s football team sparked rowdy celebrations across the war-battered nation on Tuesday after securing a convincing 3-0 win over arch-rivals Pakistan in the first international match in Kabul for ten years.
A delirious 6,000 capacity crowd packed the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) stadium for a game that unleashed a wave of patriotic pride in a country beset for decades by war, poverty and Islamist extremism.
Afghanistan, ranked 139th in the world just above Pakistan, dominated the game from the kick-off and stretched three goals ahead mid-way through the second half.
The match was promoted as a symbol of football’s ability to foster peace and unite countries in a shared love of sport, but the result was celebrated by many Afghans as a sweet victory over an old and bitter adversary.