Afghanistan's players celebrate with the trophy, following their victory over India in the SAFF Championship football Cup final match in Kathmandu on September 11, 2013. Afghanistan won the match 2-0. – AFP Photo
Afghanistan's players celebrate with the trophy, following their victory over India in the SAFF Championship football Cup final match in Kathmandu on September 11, 2013. Afghanistan won the match 2-0. – AFP Photo
Afghan fans of football celebrate winning the SAFF Championship 2013 trophy after their team defeated India during the final match, in the streets of Kabul on September 11, 2013. – AFP Photo
Afghan fans of football celebrate winning the SAFF Championship 2013 trophy after their team defeated India during the final match, in the streets of Kabul on September 11, 2013. – AFP Photo

KABUL: When the rattling sound of Kalashnikov assault rifles resonates in the streets of Kabul, it's more often than not because of an attack by Taliban insurgents. But that changed, for once, on Wednesday, the shots being fired in celebration at Afghanistan's victory over India to win the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) title.

The smell of burning cordite enveloped the Afghan city after the national team's 2-0 win over the Indians in Kathmandu thanks to goals from Mustafa Azadzoy and Sandjar Ahmadi.

The victory will no doubt reinforce the popularity of the national team that already grabbed the right headlines with a 3-0 win in a friendly against Pakistan, the neighbouring state with which Afghanistan shares stormy political relations.

As the win over India played out, Afghans did not wait for the referee's final whistle for some welcome relief, packing cafes, restaurants and businesses throughout Kabul that showed the game on television.

In a tearoom in the old city, some 20 people crammed around a television set mounted on a wall.

Situated on the first floor of a rickety house, the tearoom had small platforms covered in red carpet on which the clientele stretched out to drink tea, smoke cigarettes or hashish. “I came here to visit my brother and also to watch football,” said 30-year-old civil servant Gholam Rasol Lala.

“I love to watch football, especially the English championship. It's good for us, it makes us forget the war and the attacks that we can see every day in our country.”

When Azadzoy opened the scoring after a badly attempted clearance by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul, it was met by deafening cheers and applause.

“They're playing very well,” beamed tearoom regular Gul Raman.

A little further down the street was a restaurant also showing the game. The owner was left rubbing his hands in delight at the sight of his packed establishment, grilled kebabs of meat accompanied by long, spiced chips selling like hot cakes.

With no places left to sit inside, dozens of locals massed in front of the restaurant in an ambitious bid to spy the small-screened television set up at the far end of the establishment.

Abdel Wahed, 21, avoided any disruption to his viewing entertainment by simply going to a shop selling televisions.

The final was broadcast on a big screen still sporting its plastic protective wrapping. “If we win, there will be a big celebration,” the 21-year-old Barcelona fan said.

“We went through three decades of war so it is good to think about something else from time to time.” When Sandjar Ahmadi chipped 'keeper Paul for Afganistan's second in the 62nd minute of a fast-paced final, and the team then held on for the win, the relief was palpable.

“We won, this is so exciting!” cried Abdul Salam. “They struggled to be there, to ensure that the name of Afghanistan will be known for something other than war and attacks.”

Out in the street, car horns blazed, guns rattled and groups of fans came together waving the Afghan flag.

Scenes familiar in the West – perhaps apart from the guns – but incredibly rare in a country still battling the Taliban, who have been leading a bloody insurgency since their regime was toppled in late 2001.

The national team players will return as heroes to Afghanistan. And they will doubtless be better off after the government promised each player an apartment should they win – not bad when you earn nine dollars a day as a professional footballer in the country ranked 139th in the world.

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Comments (35) (Closed)


babu
Sep 12, 2013 02:13am

congrats to the afghan team ,they deserve this,i hope this win unites their country and look forward to peace and prosperity.---- an Indian well wisher

Sonal
Sep 12, 2013 02:38am

The Afghans celebrate their football victory by firing Kalashnikovs? That is absolutely hilarious.

Imran A.
Sep 12, 2013 06:40am

I wonder if the Taliban are proud of their team? Or do they think that men should not wear shorts? I kind of feel sorry for Taliban because they have nothing to feel good about themselves.

Siddhu
Sep 12, 2013 06:46am

Congrats Afghan Team. Best wishes from India.

Abuzar
Sep 12, 2013 08:45am

Congrats to all Afghans. Moments of happiness are rare. you all have great future ahead of you. .

Inquilaab
Sep 12, 2013 08:53am

Ahhh... the pleasure of victory has a smell of political and military love the two countries are developing.

dr vimal raina
Sep 12, 2013 10:06am

Congratulations to Afghanistan!

Yousaf
Sep 12, 2013 11:29am

Congratulations to Afghanistan.

Popo
Sep 12, 2013 01:01pm

Atleast write the names correctly when copying from AFP! its Abdul Wahid .. NOT Abdel Wahed!

rich
Sep 12, 2013 01:06pm

congratulation my afgan friends

from india

A Shah
Sep 12, 2013 06:25pm

Congrats guys, I have spoken to a lot of Indians since the win and everyone of them is as happy to see you win and are celebrating with you! Well Done!

Musa Ali Khan
Sep 12, 2013 07:10pm

Congratulation to Afgan Nation...we wish you have a success in every field of life. Your success in our success and your destruction is also ours

Arvind
Sep 12, 2013 07:26pm

Heartiest congratulations to our Afghan friends! Sad that we lost, but happy that the better side won.

Rashid Sultan
Sep 12, 2013 08:26pm

Next, beat India at their own game - cricket. You can do it!

Sonal
Sep 12, 2013 08:53pm

Afghans celebrate their football victory by firing Kalashnikovs? That's absolutely hilarious!

syed wasim haider
Sep 12, 2013 09:13pm

Well done, mabrook from all Pakistanis; hope u will do in cricket also soon.

Jpundriyal
Sep 12, 2013 10:55pm

Though ,the defeat of India, i felt painful to hear the news...being champion of the SAFF . But it is a matter of joy, that the War torn country has so determined youth.... Good luck for the future and also wish them to perform in other games too ...

Jpundriyal
Sep 12, 2013 10:53pm

already filled

mba
Sep 13, 2013 12:59am

congratulation my afgan friends. It is fascinating to see that Afghan players were able train in despite the disasterous conditions in their country. What can they achiev in a peaceful place! Hope the Afghani people would understand this and would try as hard as their footballers to bring peace in their region.

G. Din
Sep 13, 2013 01:09am

I wish India had won but it is not less of a joy that Afghanistan did.
Congrats, Afghanistan, you deserved to win and you did.

NASAH (USA)
Sep 13, 2013 05:36am

Every Indian, every Pakistani and every American is happy to see the Afghan's triumph in world soccer.

3 cheers for Afghan team.

brian
Sep 13, 2013 07:16am

Congratulations to Anganisthan

anand singh
Sep 13, 2013 07:14am

If it comes to losing, there is no country India I feel would gladly lose to than Afghanistan.

Good job done by a good team.

God Speed.

Indian
Sep 13, 2013 08:21am

Congratulations Afganistan.

Milind
Sep 13, 2013 08:49am

Congrats to our Afghan friends from India... As usual there's no coverage in the Indian media about this... Everybody here's a sucker for cricket...that too the corrupted one - IPL. Sigh!!!

Raj
Sep 13, 2013 09:28am

Congratulations to Afghan team! From India

mehboob malik
Sep 13, 2013 10:12am

Well done Afghan team.

Parivel
Sep 13, 2013 10:43am

Happy to see my dear afgans with cheered face after long sufferings. May god bless them with more smiles. As a human, it is real pain to see other human is suffering. Relived to some extent after this news.

Parivel from Tamilnadu, India.

Zalmai
Sep 13, 2013 11:50am

@Sonal:

A handful of contracted security personnel have guns in Kabul and they were the culprits that fired their guns. Most normal Afghans don't own guns. Stop buying into and propagating orientalist narratives.

Do you see anyone holding a gun in the photograph shown here?

SHIVA
Sep 13, 2013 11:55am

CONGRATS FROM INDIA. LETS cHEERS

Raman Chirania
Sep 13, 2013 01:36pm

Heartiest Congratulations for the Win! - An Indian

Sonal
Sep 13, 2013 07:02pm

@Zalmai:

Sorry to offend you, really!! I am not propagating anything. I just found it ironical that the article says kalashnikovs were fired in celebration.

Incidentally, I read something about celebratory firing in Karachi today too.

It just sounds a bit odd, that's all.

Krish Chennai
Sep 13, 2013 10:41pm

@Rashid Sultan: Beat India at their own game, cricket ? We need to be reminded that hockey is the National Game for Pakistan and India for close to 70 years, not cricket. No discounting, and throaty cheers, for the Afghan victory in this football tournament, but it's hockey in the sub-continent that needs to recover its past glory.

Rahul
Sep 14, 2013 01:24am

Happy For Afghan Team..Keep winning guys..you are the best team of the subcontinent-An Indian

AJ
Sep 14, 2013 08:21pm

@Rashid Sultan: Keep dreaming while you loose to Zimbabwe