A sold-out final, an absence of major security incidents and an increasing number of female fans marked the second edition of the Afghan Premier League (APL), which came to an end on Friday 11 October 2013. The conclusion was reached with Shaheen Asmayee winning their maiden title after a 3-1 victory in extra time against Simorgh Alborz.
As Sayed Aghazada, secretary general of the Afghanistan Football Federation, told FIFA.com: “The smooth running of the league and the victory of our national team in the SAFF Cup in September have sparked football euphoria in our country. The APL has become a concrete platform to build bridges and increase the popularity of football. We have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of women and families attending the games. The special pre-match programme for women and families we organised ahead of the final proved to be a big success.”
Eight teams from all over the country joined the second edition of the APL, including De Maiwand Atalan from south-west Afghanistan, whose team included players from the violence-afflicted provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. All games were played at the 6,000-seater AFF stadium on FIFA Goal project-funded football turf.
“We had plenty of sold-out crowds, with an average attendance of about 4,500,” said Ali Askar Lali, APL match commissioner. “We didn’t have any big issues in terms of security, and crowds were particularly fair. On the pitch we could say that the level of play improved compared to what we saw in the first year. We’ll discuss with all parties prospective ways to improve the selection process we implement ahead of the competition in order to further develop the quality of the league”.
The APL, the men’s national team and women’s football are set to become important pillars within the strategic planning of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF). “With the support of FIFA we are working on a long-term strategic plan that aims at enhancing the development of Afghan football in some key areas such as grassroots, infrastructure, and the men’s and women’s football domestic competitions,” stated Aghazada. “The idea is to take advantage of the current boom and get more youngsters into football, thus increasing participation.”
FIFA’s Head of Development, Cyril Loisel, praised the progress made. He said: “We can only be proud of what the Afghan Football Federation has achieved in recent months. The success of the league and their national team show that the investment we have made together with AFF for the development of football in Afghanistan has had a concrete impact.”
The FIFA Development Committee, which met in September 2013 in Zurich, confirmed that Afghanistan will benefit from the construction of a futsal hall and a beach soccer arena as part of the world’s football governing body programme dedicated to aiding less privileged member associations.