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Afghanistan's football team fosters unity

In a rare form of national unity, Afghans celebrate their championship victory over India.

Last Modified: 13 Sep 2013 12:16
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Kabul, Afghanistan  - Within minutes of Afghanistan's 2-0 victory over India in the South Asian Football Federation Championship, the streets of Kabul were filled with ecstatic young men celebrating their nation's first international title.

"When they scored the second goal, it was set", exclaimed Ali Yousef, a resident of the western neighbourhood of Kartei Seh. Hundreds of young men - some in cars and bicycles, others by foot immediately lined the streets of the Afghan capital.

From Shahr-e Naw, Kabul's commercial centre, to Kartei Seh in the west and the central neighbourhood of Kartei Parwan, the streets were overtaken by Afghanistan's boosters who had seen their team slowly rise up the ranks of the SAFF since their 0-4 defeat against India in 2011.

Several young Kabulis waved the Afghan flag from cars and motorbikes.The sounds of  Piroozi, a song performed by seven Afghan pop singers, could be heard from car speakers and mobile phones.

But for some long-time residents of the Afghan capital, the celebrations turned sour once the sounds of gunfire overtook the cheering and honking of car horns.

By the next morning, when the national team had returned from Kathmandu, the ack-ack of Kalashnikov fire became a point of contention.

For many of the capital's residents who had lived through decades of conflict, including a five-year-long civil war that targeted Kabul, the sounds of gunfire evoke the fear and anger of war, not the joy of triumph. While others believe gunfire is customary in Afghan celebrations.

Though Ahmad Wali, a resident of the northern neighbourhood of Khair Khaneh, said he saw at least four people in Kabul injured by the falling bullets. Samiya, who lives near Darulaman Palace, said the ecstatic young men were warranted in shooting their guns out of joy.

What Samiya could not reconcile however, was the introduction of politics into the match.

"I couldn't take my eyes off the TV, it was such a beautiful game, but every time I saw a minister's face cheering in the crowd, I was filled with disgust."

For Samiya, TV cutaways to four Afghan ministers, including Omar Zakhilwal, the minister of finance, cheering from the stands of the Dashrath Stadium was a reminder of how far the nation had to go.

"They should be ashamed. They stole and bribed their way [to these ministerships], but they go to represent a nation they are helping to destroy dollar-by-dollar."

Still, for many in the country, the intrusion of war-time memories and the allegations of corruption in the Kabul government could not take away from the joy at seeing young Afghans lead their nation to victory.

"If only everything in Afghanistan was like football", Samiya said.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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