The international friendly between Afghanistan and Pakistan scheduled for Tuesday, 20 August 2013, in Kabul’s AFF stadium, and the start of the second edition of the Afghan Premier League (APL) two days later, are set to become two major milestones in the recent history of Afghan football.
The international match between the Asian neighbours will be the first such fixture in Afghanistan since 2003, when the host side played Turkmenistan in the Ghazi stadium.
“The fact that we are hosting our first international game in ten years, and the first against Pakistan in Kabul since 1977, represents a major highlight for football in our country," Secretary General of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF), Sayed Aghazada, told FIFA.com. "It shows that after a very difficult period we are returning to normality. Afghan football has improved in terms of organisation and infrastructure, and we now believe that football can play an even bigger role in our country. Of course we expect a sold-out crowd."
“This is a very symbolic game for the whole football community in south Asia which confirms that our sport can contribute to promote a positive relationship between neighbour countries,” stated the Secretary General of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Lt. Colonel Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi.
This historic Afghanistan and Pakistan friendly will be played at the AFF stadium on the FIFA Goal project funded artificial pitch. Two days later, the same venue will host the opening of the second edition of the Afghan Premier League (APL).
League action returns
Eight teams from all over the country, including De Maiwand Atalan from south-west Afghanistan with players from the violence-prone provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, plus defending champions Toofan-Harirood, are set to go head-to-head for the coveted APL trophy. A scouting process implemented by AFF since April was used to select all players. APL matches will be shown live on Afghanistan's Tolo TV.
The league plays a critical role in our attempts to further develop football in Afghanistan, increase its popularity and discover new talents," Ali Askar Lali, a former Afghan international and APL match commissioner said. "Football is among those activities that so far have not become direct targets of violence. However, we will now have improved security, accreditation and ticketing measures since we are expecting to have a capacity crowd of 6,000 spectators for all games."
“In the first APL season, we witnessed spectators from different backgrounds and provinces sharing their passion for football in the stadium, which proves that football can promote the unity of Afghan people from all tribes and places,” concluded Aghazada.
During the past ten years FIFA has invested USD $1.5million towards two Goal projects in Kabul: the installation of a football turf pitch at the AFF stadium in Kabul and the construction of the association’s headquarters.