Following a year of remarkable achievement in grassroots level football, building infrastructure to further develop football throughout the country and nurturing a professional league despite enduring over a decade of disorder stemming from war, Afghanistan has been presented the 2013 FIFA Fair Play award.
Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) President Karim Keramuudin and the entire association have emphasised the spirit of fair play at the heart of their work over the past 12 months and their achievements can be seen across all levels of the game.
With the assistance of FIFA’s Goal Programme, Afghanistan has been able to construct artificial football pitches used for the second edition of the Afghan Premier League, which concluded in October 2013. These artificial pitches also enabled the growth of grassroots football, allowing a greater number of children to play than ever before.
A major highlight of 2013 for the international footballing community was seeing Kabul play host to the first international friendly between Afghanistan and neighbours Pakistan in nearly ten years. Afghanistan won the encounter 3-0 in front of delighted and enthusiastic supporters. Building upon this encouraging progress, Pakistan will be welcoming Afghanistan for the return match in March in Lahore.
And while hosting an international friendly may not appear groundbreaking on the surface, considering the amount of strife and terror Afghanistan has seen in recent years, the introduction of football back to the nation’s capital against Pakistan is a prime example of the power football has to unite and inspire in even the darkest of times.
Afghanistan has also made great strides in making up the game available to a wider audience throughout the country, most notably to women and families. No fewer than 23 clubs – including 16 in Kabul alone - now offer opportunities for girls and women to play football.
Tokyo Sexwale, FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination adviser, South African politician and anti-apartheid activist, who presented President Keramuudin with the 2013 FIFA Fair Play Award at the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich, said: “(Afghanistan) is inspiring social change and breaking down barriers every day. Against all odds, the winner of the 2013 FIFA Fair Play Award has upheld this spirit of courage and solidarity through the aftereffects of war, disorder and conflict.
“It takes a great amount of dedication and hard work to develop football at grassroots level, to build infrastructure for the game so that it can grow, and to nurture a national league in the midst of years of violence and destruction. But that is just what this remarkable and worthy winner has achieved.”