The citizens thronged the streets in numbers as the occasion of Afghanistan’s first trophy brought rapturous overtures to a terror draped nation...
When guns are usually sounded in public streets, it ensconces a fear of oncoming terror amongst the natives of Kabul and the whole of Afghanistan, in general. But on Wednesday, September 11th, the gunfire was a sign of spreading hope and joy amongst the faithful as the Afghanistan football team booked a place in the country’s historic sporting feats by winning the South Asian Football Federation(SAFF) Championship in Kathmandu, Nepal, their first international trophy.
The Lions of Khorasan beat back all advances by the defending champions, the Blue Tigers of India, and scored two goals courtesy of Mustafa Azadzoy who scored as early as the ninth minute and Sanjdar Ahmadi, who added a second later on as the Lions romped home to victory.
Fumes from the burning of Cordite seemed to engulf the city as the match wound to a close and the citizens then scented victory. It further affirms the popularity of the national team heroes amongst their appraisers, who had been gleeful ever since the team beat their arch rivals Pakistan in a friendly match 3-0 prior to the tournament last month.
Ordinary folks crammed restaurants, small cafés, business establishments and even cramped into a tea room with the city’s founding limits to witness history in the making on whatever television set they could find.
“I came here to visit my brother and also to watch football. 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," elucidated tricenarian civil servant Gholam Rasol Lala, to the AFP.
As Azadzoy opened the Afghan account, after capitalizing on a mistake by Subrata Paul, the Indian goalie, cheers rang about so loud, you’d believe Afghanistan was in the midst of a party and not a war. “They're playing very well," beamed Gul Raman, another citizen who was a tea room regular.
21-year-old Barcelona fan Abdel Wahed, headed straight to a shop dealing in television sets so as to prevent any disruptions from taking away his attention on a riveting encounter. The fans were greeted by a big set showing the game, still nestled in it plastic wrappings.
"If we win, there will be a big celebration. We went through three decades of war so it is good to think about something else from time to time," expounded the Afghan lad.
As the minutes wound down, especially after Ahmadi scored the decisive second strike in the 62nd, crowd began to sense victory was in their sights and began to celebrate as relief spread throughout.
"We won, this is so exciting! They struggled to be there, to ensure that the name of Afghanistan will be known for something other than war and attacks," roared Abdul Salam, a citizen dumfounded with pride.
In moments of adversary, some seemingly so often that has engulfed this nation since the October invasions of the United States at the beginning of the century, the winning of the SAFF Championship is more than just a beacon of hope that states the resurgence of a nation bridled by terror.
Joy abound its citizens so much so that the secret service had to issue general warnings to people who had been celebrating the victory by rifling guns into the melancholy of the night. Afghan flags waved about, horns blared and gleeful citizens cheered on their footballing heroes throughout the night.
The Afghan government too got in on the act, promising each footballer a new apartment, keeping a promise they had endowed at the beginning of the teams SAFF journey. The Afghan football team will be welcomed back as heroes, and why shouldn’t they? In a country where a professional hardly earns nine dollars a day, a heroes tag is more than welcome.
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