KABUL: Afghanistan's football team sparked celebrations across the war-torn nation on Tuesday after securing a convincing 3-0 win over 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.

Afghanistan, ranked at 139th in the world just above Pakistan, gave home fans little to worry about, dominating the game from the kick-off and going 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 adversity.

“I am a huge football fan, and this match was so important for us,” said Shabir Ahmad, 27, a government employee at the match.

“There are a lot of rivalries between Afghanistan and Pakistan, even if this match was meant to boost friendship.”

Just a small number of women were in the stands, and there was no sign of Pakistani support despite thousands of Pakistanis living and working in the Afghan capital.

Security was intense with several rings of armed riot police and soldiers beating back frustrated ticketless crowds locked outside of the stadium.

Kabul has been hit by a series of militant attacks this year, including near the president's palace and on the Supreme Court.

One spectator, Ahmadzai Fazeli, 25, said that insurgents at a Taliban roadblock in volatile Wardak province had wished the team well.

“On the way here the Taliban stopped me. I told them I was going to the football match, and they happily let me pass,” he said. “Now I am here feeling very patriotic and happy.”

Ahead of kick-off, tempers frayed as police struggled to control unruly crowds pushing to get access to the game, which was attended by some senior Afghan officials and foreign diplomats, including the British ambassador.

But the final whistle triggered delirium as players paraded the national flag in front of dancing spectators and crowds celebrated on the city streets.

The game, which was played on an artificial pitch funded by the FIFA world body, was the first home international since Afghanistan played Turkmenistan in 2003.

Football was not banned under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime but the old Ghazi stadium in Kabul was a notorious venue for executions, stonings and mutilations.

Tuesday's game – at the separate AFF stadium in the city – will be followed on Thursday by the start of the second season of the eight-team Afghan Premier League.

A return match is scheduled in the Pakistani city of Lahore in December.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (27)

Majid
August 20, 2013 7:50 pm

Who were the 'millions' of Afghans residing in Pakistan supporting ?

janan
August 20, 2013 7:51 pm

not even football against a war thrown country where did we stand :(

Waqqas
August 20, 2013 8:21 pm

Congratulations Afghanistan. Hope we see peace in the region and friendship with your country. Remember our sacrifices too.

Ali
August 20, 2013 8:36 pm

@Majid: Lets ask the millions of Pakistani's living in england who they support when they play against Pakistan

Ali
August 20, 2013 8:42 pm

Good work Afghan brothers. All the best from Peshawar

Akhter
August 20, 2013 9:20 pm

This was a sweet victory for Afghanistan!

Indian
August 20, 2013 9:55 pm

Well Done Afghanistan...wishes and wishes :)

Pakistani
August 20, 2013 10:18 pm

Congragulations to our Afghan brothers and sisters.

M. Fahim
August 20, 2013 11:17 pm

Am an Afghan student in Islamabad, my messege is to both countries high officals that if both countries arrange such friendly matches it will bring both nations closer instead of haterd, no matter whoever win, the important thing is to exchange their thinking and feeling it will really affect on their relations, just immigine and look with which kind of activites we are bussy with each other? and what the rest of the world is doing, just look to Europ, Southeast Asia and other regions but we members of SARC are stile bussy and sleeping.

Pankaj
August 21, 2013 12:45 am

Ab lo,........... After Bangladesh, Afganis have also started beating Pakistan in sports.

Daniel Adam
August 21, 2013 1:04 am

@Majid: obviously they would support Afghanistan...whats wrong with that?

Awan
August 21, 2013 1:16 am

@janan Well It was Pakistan XI not the actual team that played there and the foreign players abstained to play in Afghanistan. Players of Foreign Origin were advised to stay away. So Pakistan did not played at all with full strength. It was like KRL ( Khan Research Laboratories ) vs Afghanistan. Also dont forget that Cricket and Hockey is the game played in Pakistan and football is only at budding stages and we can defeat them easily in both of Cricket & Hockety fronts and infact Pakistan is giving Afghanistan its full support to promote the sports of cricket in their regions.

Vikas
August 21, 2013 2:41 am

@Majid, whom do all pakistani living in England and Australia support?

Sanity prevails
August 21, 2013 6:41 am

Playoff in Lahore, going to be same final score ?

harboring Afghani's as refugees for over multiple decades and considering Pakistan as rival, what a shame!

Afghan
August 21, 2013 8:39 am

Take it easy guys it's just a game.

Gohar
August 21, 2013 9:16 am

Congratulations to Afghanistan! Good friendly match and well deserved win !

Gohar, Lahore

observer
August 21, 2013 9:36 am

Afghanistan defeats Pakistan.

Is it 2014, already?

Kumar
August 21, 2013 9:47 am

@Majid: That's how we feet when muslims living in india support pakistan..

akbar
August 21, 2013 9:54 am

Football was never banned by the Taliban, only kite flying was. Very poor reporting/standards by Dawn staff.

gulzar
August 21, 2013 10:27 am

A little glimps of happyness and hope but still a long way to go. the nighbors India, Iran and Pakistan will not let peace come that esily.

Vikas
August 21, 2013 11:04 am

@Majid, whom do all pakistani living in England and Australia support?

Ahmad
August 21, 2013 11:16 am

As an Afghan, like any other human being on the planet, I cherished the victory of our team. It was undoubtedly a moment of joy and pride. It was our third match with the Pakistani team. I hope this friendly competition continues and becomes a good cause of bringing the two nations closer and if possible the politicians and policy makers too who have long been hostile towards each others. The moment when an Afghan player acted as a physician and helped a Pakistani player recover from a minor muscular injury on the field was indeed a good sign of our desire for the good relations we want with the Pakistani people. I very much hope that this game brings our people together and help boost good intentions among us. Win or lose should not cause us dispair. What is important is the spirit of being together, coming closer and having divine intentions.

Bilal
August 21, 2013 1:00 pm

Congratulations! Afghans needed this victory more than Pakistanis. Hope Pakistani team learned some lessons!

Nish
August 21, 2013 1:10 pm

@akbar: You seem to know it all about Taliban. :)

A Shah
August 21, 2013 1:55 pm

This is a national conspiricy to defame Pakistan, this has the foreigh hand all over it. Non state actors were involved in this loss.

guest
August 21, 2013 4:41 pm

@Pankaj: trust me pankaj, pakistan is not a football nation and if india plays football with afghanistan do you really think India will win? Get real!

Afghan
August 22, 2013 12:49 am

We hop Allah bring peace to both countries where we live as brothers It was just a Friendly Match congratulation to Afghanistan

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