Khorason Lions

the ultimate source for Afghan football

March 10, 2014
by Lions_star
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Pakistan, Afghanistan hail Fifa headscarf move

Sports officials say decision to lift ban will allow more girls to take up football
Karachi: Pakistani and Afghan sports officials have hailed a decision by football’s world governing body to lift a ban on head coverings, saying this will allow more Islamic girls to take up the sport.
Fifa on Saturday officially authorised the wearing of head coverings for religious purposes during matches, allowing women who wear a veil in everyday life to cover their heads during matches and men to wear turbans.
Rukhsana Rashid, the captain of the all-women Dia club in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, said on Monday the move would help the sport to grow.
“I want to pay my gratitude to Fifa because this will allow female players from remote areas to take up the game because their parents were not allowing them without their head covered,” she said.
Saadia Shaikh, secretary of Sindh’s women’s football association, added it was a “very good decision for female players from Islamic countries”.
Pakistan’s former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf cleared the way for women’s events at the national level in 2005. In all, nine national women’s football championships have been held and the country now boasts 22 women’s football clubs with around 400 players. But male spectators unaccompanied by female relatives are banned from entering the stadium.
In Afghanistan, Mohammad Yousuf, a senior official in the Afghanistan football federation, said the decision “shows respect to the culture and religion of others. This is respect and tolerance and we in Afghanistan welcome this”.
“If it was not allowed, this could be a problem for Afghan women and for the women in the Islamic world in general,” he added.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, allowed only men’s football but sometimes used the national football ground in Kabul to carry out public executions before matches.
Pakistan’s women’s team will start a training camp next month to tune up for friendly home and away matches against Qatar.
Pakistan will host the South Asian Football Federation competition in December this year, with neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal expected to feature. Both men and women will compete.

March 10, 2014
by Lions_star
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Afghanistan win FIFA Fair Play Award

Zurich: Afghanistan has been presented the 2013 FIFA Fair Play award in recognition of the Central Asian nation’s remarkable achievements in developing football despite continuing to struggle with the legacy of decades of civil upheaval.

March 9, 2014
by Lions_star
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Football ‘peace match’ between England and Afghanistan could mark end of Taliban war

Cameron and Micky Owen David Cameron and former Premier League stars Michael Owen and John Hartson back ‘truce game’ idea to boost Afghan football

David Cameron today joined international football stars calling for a “peace match” between England and Afghanistan at Wembley to mark the end of the war against the Taliban.

Premier League star Michael Owen, who touched down in Helmand with the Prime Minister this morning, said the memorial game would be a
“fantastic” way to honour British troops’ sacrifice over the past 12 years.

It came as he promoted a new partnership between the English FA, the Premier League and Afghanistan’s rapidly-improving national football team.

The war-torn country’s top players will be invited to train at England’s new training centre, St George’s Park, under the plan to boost Afghan football unveiled in Camp Bastion.

The Football Association’s Robert Sullivan said the possibility of a peace match against England was a likely “long term ambition of the Afghan FA”.

Asked about the prospect of a game as a nice way to mark the draw down, Michael Owen said: “Wouldn’t it just, yes it would be fantastic.

“There could be a fully fledged game at Wembley one day that would be fantastic to mark the occasion.

“It would be great to mark the end of the conflict with a game certainly at Wembley that would be a great occasion.”

Former Wales and Celtic star John Hartson, who was also in Afghanistan to film a special Football Focus show with the BBC, added: “If it gets the backing of the FA and all concerned I think it would be a fantastic touch.

“So why not? I think you’d get a full house because it would be an opportunity for the people back home to go and pay their respects and go to
Wembley.”

The game would echo the First World War Christmas truce game between British and German troops that took place in No Man’s Land in 1914.

If it goes ahead it will also take place amid the planned centenary celebrations of the 1914-18 conflict starting next year.

Mr Cameron said the plan was “an excellent idea”.

He said: “I was reflecting today that soon this incredible piece of service by British troops will come to an end and we’ll have to think how best to
mark that.

“If you take 2001 to 2014 it is a very long continuous operation and as a nation we’ll need to think how best to mark that, much as we did with
previous operations, and I’m sure there will be many, very dignified national events that should take place.

“We can discuss that in the future. But the idea of one part of it being a football match is a nice idea.”

Earlier, as he watched British and Afghan soldiers play alongside John Hartson and former Sunderland winger Kevin Kilbane in a special Camp Bastion
friendly, Mr Cameron said: “I think football has an immense ability to bring people together, bring countries together and as we leave Afghanistan we arenot leaving it alone in the world.

“We are going to go on funding its Armed Services, we are going to go on supporting its development. We are going to be helping it have a football
league.”

POOL/Lefteris PitarakisBritain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (
Offside: Prime Minister David Cameron and Michael Owen meet the troops

Speaking after the game, Michael Owen said the experience of training with British troops had been “really special”.

He said: “Obviously its a time of the year when everyone wants to be with their family especially so its good to see that they’re making the best of
what they’ve got.”

Owen, an FA ambassador, also praised the new England-Afghanistan football link up.

He praised the FA for “partnering and lending their support and advice to the Afghan football association and Afghan sport in general”.

He pointed to the country’s recent footballing success – winning the South Asia Cup against India in the final.

He said: “It’s great they can participate in these types of events and have competitive teams at a national level which is good for the morale of the
country.”

Mr Cameron, who did not join in the game, was hit by a football while he chatted with troops on the sidelines.

When the finger was pointed at former Wales international John Hartson, Mr Cameron said: “He kicked it pretty hard. But that was my own fault.

“I was chatting to the troops rather than watching the game. Not paying attention, I was asking for it.”

March 9, 2014
by Lions_star
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Afghanistan victory is no surprise

South Asian Cup success was well-deserved with the national team changing the balance of football power in the region.

Afghanistan’s 2-0 win over India inspired outpourings of national pride in Kabul [EPA]

It was right and proper that it made headlines around the world but the wording was not quite correct.

Afghanistan’s triumph in the 2013 South Asian Cup was, of course, a huge success that should be hailed everywhere.

Thousands of fans in Kabul poured onto the streets to hail the win in a rare moment of genuine national pride after years of war. The sound of gunfire echoed along with the cheers but they had better get used to celebrating football victories, Afghanistan are changing the balance of football power in South Asia.

But a shock? The 2-0 win over India in the final in Kathmandu was nothing of the sort. This was no lucky or surprise win. It was well-deserved and not unexpected.

Two years ago, perhaps it was a little different. There was some surprise to see Afghanistan in the final in 2011 when they lost 4-0 to the hosts in New Delhi. Yet that result does not tell the full story of how, with the scoreline goalless midway through the second half, the referee harshly sent off the Afghan goalkeeper Hameedullah Yousefzari and awarded India a penalty and changed the game completely.

Afghanistan entered the 2013 version as second favourites, only slightly behind holders India, a country that had won six of the nine editions to date. But with the boys in blue lacklustre and short of ideas from start to finish, the Lions of Khorasan stepped up.

“Afghanistan were a strong organised side,” Pakistan star Zesh Rehman told Al Jazeera.

I was not completely surprised they [Afghanistan] won because they displayed a lot of courage and hunger, football for these guys is a privilege and a welcome break from their daily troubles and turmoil

Zesh Rehman ,

“They defended well and played with good intensity and aggression. I was not completely surprised they won because they displayed a lot of courage and hunger, football for these guys is a privilege and a welcome break from their daily troubles and turmoil.”

The former Fulham star is not yet convinced that the team are a powerhouse in the region but acknowledges that the future could be bright.

“On this showing they have the potential to be [a force in South Asia]. At South Asian level there is very little between the majority of the teams, the ones who can get the lead and take the chances generally win. Pakistan can learn from them in terms of being more clinical in front of goal.”

FIFA’s rankings have the team as the strongest in South Asia and at least in this regard, the world governing body is correct (132 at the time of writing, 19 in Asia).

“Afghanistan were the best team in the tournament,” said Biplav Gautam, former official at the Asian Football Confederation and now an Asian football journalist.

“They are a very mature footballing side that does not get rattled. That is what sets them apart from the other South Asian teams. They seem to have a lot of mental strength. Also they have quite a few European based players who probably have a more professional approach to the game.”

Experienced squad

The Afghan diaspora has proven to be a real boon for the team. Since the 2011 final, there have been times when the national team coach has summoned as many as eleven from European leagues – others are active from the United States and India.

The European-based stars may not exactly be playing for the big clubs in the big leagues but have a good deal of valuable experience. Tournament MVP Mansur Faqiryar conceded just one goal in 450 minutes of football and is now back in the German fourth division with VfB Oldenburg. Sandjar Ahmadi scored the second goal in the 2-0 final win over India and plays in regional German leagues.

In addition, the Afghanistan Football Federation has invested as much as possible in youth football and development of young players. It has not always been easy. It wasn’t long ago that stadiums were used by the Taliban for executions and then the local leagues were amateur, short on facilities and very short of cash.

Matters are improving and the growing success of the national team can only help more of the country’s youth to fall in love with the beautiful game. The Afghan Premier League was set up as part of a television reality show but is bringing professional football to the country for a second successive year.

The next prize is the biggest yet – securing a place at the 2015 Asian Cup due to be held in Australia. The traditional qualification route is not an option but there is another way. If the team can win the 2014 version of the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament reserved for ‘developing nations’, then a place down under at the continent’s flagship event is assured. Afghanistan are certainly capable of doing so.

Guplav envisages a time when Afghanistan will become the first South Asian team to break out of the region. “Not only will they be a force, they have a chance at separating themselves from the pack. I believe in the coming years they will come to resemble West Asian teams like Iraq and Jordan.”

High praise indeed. Afghanistan at the World Cup? It is not going to happen soon but this is a country, in football terms at least, that is going places.

March 9, 2014
by Lions_star
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Afghanistan’s first ever national football league

Afghans have been glued to their TV sets this week watching the start of their country’s first-ever football league season.

It may be a long way from the standards of European football leagues, but the newly created Roshan Afghan Premier League has generated huge excitement and turned people across the country into football fans overnight.

It all started with a single reality TV programme on Afghanistan’s main private channel, Tolo: the Maidan-e-Sabz (Green Field) programme offered aspiring footballers the chance to compete for a place in eight newly-formed football teams across Afghanistan.

The participants put their football skills to the test in a series of challenges, including one that involved running through mud and water.

By the end of the series, 18 players had been chosen for each new regional club.

“We want to improve professional football in Afghanistan,” said Keramuddin Karim, head of Afghanistan’s football federation and a key member of the Green Field TV jury.

“It is a new era for Afghanistan’s favourite sport, football.”

Afghan Premier League matchFor the fans, football provides a welcome relief from violence

The new teams in the Roshan football league – named after the country’s leading telecommunications company, which is jointly sponsoring the operation – have the support of the international governing body of football, Fifa, and the Asian Football Federation.

All the matches are played in a new 5,000-seater football stadium in the capital.

The first match kicked off on Tuesday, with Kandahar’s Atalan-e-Maiwand soundly beating Shaheen Asmaee from Kabul.

“We had space for 5,000 people, but more than 10,000 turned up,” said Mr Karim.

“They were shouting, cheering up and even crying during one of the first ever league matches in their country.”

There is a long tradition of playing football in Afghanistan, despite the interruptions of war.

The Afghan Football Federation was set up in 1933 and it joined Fifa in 1948; the national team played its first-ever match against European opposition at the London Olympic Games in 1948, losing 6-0 to Luxembourg.

But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the ensuing civil war put an end to international football for more than two decades.

The Afghan national team eventually returned to the international arena in 2002, when they played South Korea in the Asian Games, losing 2-0.

Lions of Khurasan

They had better luck in the Asian Cup the following year, beating Kyrgyzstan, but this was followed by a run of losses until 2011, when they were runners-up in the South Asian Games in Delhi.

Crowd at Afghan football matchAll the matches take place in Kabul’s brand new 5,000-seater football stadium

The result was their best-ever and they were dubbed the Lions of Khurasan, a nickname which has stuck.

Evidence that the launch of the new Afghan football league has sparked a new wave of enthusiasm for the game is clearly seen in the decision by one expatriate to start a website updating the results of the league to the outside world.

For the fans, football provides a welcome relief from the violence and suicide attacks which are reported daily on the news.

“I am so lucky to be sitting here and watching my country’s football league,” said Jamshid Aziz, a university student in Kabul.

“It feels like I’m watching Barcelona playing Real Madrid. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but who would have believed we would see something like this in Afghanistan one day?”

Afghan women are getting in on the act too – the women’s national team has recently had a run of good results.

Feeling of togetherness

Kabul student Samira Haidari, 19, says that football has replaced Bollywood soap operas as her television favourite.

Queue of people for Afghan Premier League matchFootball has promoted a sense of Afghan national unity

“I am a big fan of football, I welcome this event in my country and I follow every bit of it on TV,” she told the BBC. “I really hope to watch it live in the stadium soon.”

When it comes to salaries though, Afghan football teams are certainly in a different league from Barcelona or Real Madrid.

None of the players have contracts – they are only paid basic expenses. Teams get their board and lodging paid and players from outside Kabul also get a tiny daily allowance.

“We pay them 500 Afghanis ($10;£6) for their expenses,” says Mr Karim of the football federation.

“I know it’s not very much, but if they play well and shine it could open a new chapter in their lives.”

Although the players know all about the multi-million pound salaries and contracts of the world’s leading footballers, they say that for now, money does not matter.

“I would never have dreamed that it could be possible to play in front of such a big crowd who all have smiles on their faces,” says Mujtaba Faiz, who plays for Kabul.

“For the moment, that’s all I want.”

But there is good news for the teams that come first, second and third in the new league.

The victors will win a grand prize of $15,000 (£9,200) and some players will be offered the chance to join the national team, which is mostly made up of players from Kabul, many of whom are playing in the Roshan league. As yet, no Afghan team members play overseas.

The newly-formed league runs until the middle of October, but many Afghans hope that the feeling of togetherness that football seems to be generating across the country will last much longer.

March 9, 2014
by Lions_star
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Afghan Football Team Starts Training for Asia Challenge Cup

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 08:20Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 20:30Written by Mir Saayed Sediqi

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The Afghan National Football Team started training in Kabul for the AFC Challenge Cup 2014, which will begin in the Maldives on May 19.

The Afghan National Football team coach Yousef Kargar has called 22 players for the training, with no more than 16 expected to travel for the tournament.

“The players from the Afghan Primer League have been called for a two week training in Kabul,” Kargar said Monday. “After that we will select the top 16 players for the completion of training in Qatar.”

Coming off of a banner year for Afghan football in which the country’s first international football title was claimed, the players seemed particularly excited for the next tournament.

“We welcome the Kabul training and we hope to be ready for the Asian competition,” said Mujtaba Faiz, a National Football Team player.

The draw for the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 will take place on Wednesday, February 12 at the Paradise Island Resort in the Maldives.

Joining the tournament hosts in next month’s draw are two-time runners-up Turkmenistan, 2013 SAFF champions Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Palestine, the Philippines and Laos.

The eight-team competition will be held in the Maldives from May 19 to 30 with the winners of the fifth edition of the tournament for emerging nations also earning a berth at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.