AAN Thematic Dossiers

Thematic Dossier II: Football in Afghanistan


Toofan Harirod, Champions of the 2012 Afghan Premier League - photo by FF

Tonight (11 September 2013) Afghanistan is playing in the South Asian Football Cup Final, facing India in a match starting at 17.00 Kabul time. Soccer is quickly becoming a favorite in Afghanistan, both as a sport played by the youth and as a passion for the public watching it on television at home. After an early start in the 1920s and renewed efforts from the 1940s onwards, when it became the most popular ‘imported’ sport, football’s progress was stopped by decades of war. Feet kept dribbling footballs on the grass (or the dust) even during the worst times though and the post-2001 years have seen a slow but steady rebirth of the sport. A Kabul Premier League has been properly organised since 2006, featuring around twelve professional teams from the capital. The country also now has a national league, inaugurated last year with a well-managed and highly entertaining tournament in Kabul where eight teams representing different regions of Afghanistan were pitted against each other (currently the second edition is taking place). The matches are usually played in the Ghazi Stadium, the Kabul facility named after King Amanullah who had it built in 1923 and who first encouraged football in the country; capable of hosting a public of 25,000, it has been thoroughly renovated and upgraded to Olympic stadium in 2011.

Meanwhile, internationally, the Afghan national team has been climbing the FIFA rankings as Afghans climb Hindu Kush passes, reaching position n°139 before the start of this year’s South Asian Football Federation Cup in Nepal. It is the top team from this part of the world, a few positions above even India, the regional giant and South Asian Cup holder. To mention Afghanistan’s latest successes:

A match with Pakistan in Kabul on 20 August 2013 turned into a major triumph because: 1) it was a friendly match, officially and factually and; 2) Afghanistan won 3-0. During this edition of the South Asian Cup, Afghanistan has been on the crest of a footballing wave. After beating Bhutan 3-0 and Sri Lanka 3-1, and drawing 0-0 against the Maldives, the Afghan Team-e Melli overcame the host team Nepal 1-0 in the semi-finals and has thus reached the final against India. The previous South Asian Cup competition in 2011 saw the same two teams facing each other in a hotly contested final match, with Afghanistan ultimately losing to India 0:4, but only after certain decisions by the referee had heavily affected the match. At least, that’s what many supporters and political analysts in Afghanistan think.

AAN has followed the Afghan/international passion for football, commenting on some topical moments of its development in Afghanistan, from the courageous resistance of football fans during the Taleban years to the thrill of recent encounters. So, as well as inviting everybody to watch and enjoy the final match of the South Asian Cup championship (Tolo and Lemar TV channels will broadcast it live), here’s a collection of what we have had to say on ‘the most beautiful game’ (including one dissenting voice for those readers who find football less than exciting).

 

1) The Afghan Premier League

 

X-Factor Football: Afghanistan’s New Premier League

Author: Thomas Ruttig

Date: 1 October 2012

 

BREAKING NEWS: Harirod Storm Swept the Northern Alborz

Author: Fabrizio Foschini

Date: 20 October 2012

 

2) Historical Matches

 

Flash to the Past: Football under the Taleban (1)

Author: Kate Clark

Date: 29 June 2010

 

Flash to the Past: Football under the Taleban (2) – Nobody Shouts “Allahu Akbar”

Author: Thomas Ruttig

Date: 29 June 2010

 

Flash from the Past: The Wonderful Days of Afghanistan as a Football-Free Zone

Author: Kate Clark

Date: 30 September 2012

 

3) …and, for something else…

 

A Note from the (Soccer) Field

Author: Guest

Date: 12 January 2010

 

Kabuli Youth in Ramazan Nights: A Passion for Futsal and More

Author: S. Reza Kazemi

Date: 1 August 2012

 

* For further reading on Afghan football, a useful website among others is: http://tumblr.footballinkabul.com

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