Afghanistan mark first home game in 10 years with victory over Pakistan

The South Asian nation hosted for the first time since 2003 and marked the occasion with a 3-0 win over their neighbouring rivals
Goals from Sanjar Ahmadi, Harash Atefi and Marouf Mahmoudi made for a historic win for Afghanistan as the war-torn nation marked their first home fixture since 2003 with a win. Turkmenistan were the last visitors, winning 2-0 in a 2006 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifier.

With Afghanistan and Pakistan political leaders expected to meet for crucial peace talks next week, the 'Friendship Match' as it had been dubbed, had added meaning for the two nations who have had a long and bitter political history. Officials from both nations expressed hope that the match would strengthen bilateral ties.

6,000 fans, mostly men and in support of the home side, were in attendance for the game held at the newly constructed Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) Stadium. Although football was allowed and played in the Ghazi Stadium under the Taliban regime from the mid-90s to their downfall in 2001, the venue was also used for executions.

It took just 20 minutes for the home side to take lead through forward Sanjar, before his strike partner Harash doubled the lead just after the half-hour mark. Marouf then rounded-off the memorable win with a third in the 71st minute.

The match was played under heavy security with armed personnel keeping a close eye at the stadium and the victorious outcome sparked massive celebrations across the nation.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa immediately congratulated Afghanistan for their victory via a media statement.

“The success of this match shows that football is a catalyst to bring peace," said Shaikh Salman.

"This also proves Afghanistan’s return to normalcy after decades of war. This game was symbolic for the South Asians and confirms football’s power to promote positive relationship between neighbouring countries.”

The AFC President also praised AFF for organising an eight-team Afghan Premier League adding: “The AFF has been very active to develop the game and I would like to congratulate all the stakeholders of football in Afghanistan for their role in promotion and development of the game."

Afghanistan are ranked 139th in the Fifa rankings while Pakistan are 28 spots lower.