The Kabul-based team, Arman-e-Kabul, nailed a convincing two-nil victory over the team from Iran to clinch the four-nation soccer tournament organized by the National Olympic Committee of Afghanistan. Teams from Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan and the host country, Afghanistan, participated in the tournament. Attended by over 30,000 spectators, the final was a symbol of national pride for Afghanistan as they won their first international tournament since the 1930s.
The first goal was scored by Ali Hazara in the first half. The second half saw a more aggressive play due in part to the rough physical contacts between the players which led to Iran protesting and stopping play for a short time. They resumed, however, only to concede another goal, this time from the Afghan captain, just a few minutes before finish. Shams Amini, the Afghan goalkeeper, was able to successfully thwart all attacks from the Iranian ranks till the end.
The victory whistle brought a boisterous ovation to the milieu which continued until the prizes were given away by Kareem Khalili, deputy to President Karzai. Despite the blast in Kabul which killed four that day, it was hard for the commentators to calm the excited crowd down in respect to the Afghan national anthem.
In a TV interview jut after the whistle, Ali Hazara, the key Afghan player, said in an excited tone, “I feel very happy about this achievement. The credit goes to the entire nation. Congratulations to all!” He was speaking in Hazaragi, a regional language spoken primarily by the historically repressed Hazara ethnic group.
The Chairman of National Olympic Committee of Afghanistan, Anwar Jigdalek, congratulated the nation for the victory and praised their support. He attributed the victory to the players’ hard work. He further said, “This tournament was a call for peace among the neighbors of Afghanistan. It was also a call for national unity and solidarity among the people of Afghanistan.”
Ali Rawazi, the Iranian captain, thanked the National Olympic Committee of Afghanistan for holding the event. He said, “We are happy to have been invited to this tournament. We are satisfied by the way it was organized. We would like to have the Afghan team visit Iran in the future.”
Another team participating from Afghanistan, Omed-e-Kabul, stood fifth followed by Pakistan’s NWFP while Tajikistan stood third.
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