Afghan fans abuzz over return of international football
© AFP

Afghanistan's action-starved football fans are predicting a morale-boosting victory for the national side in their first home game for 10 years when they take on Pakistan on Tuesday.

The match at the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) stadium in Kabul has sparked major interest in the war-torn country, with a sell-out crowd expected at the afternoon game.

Afghanistan, ranked 139th in the world, last played at home in 2003 in a clash against Turkmenistan and have not played Pakistan, their eastern neighbour and rival, in Kabul since 1977.

"I'm very glad Afghanistan play Pakistan here," Ghulam Abbas Kohi, a 16-year-old student, told AFP as he picked up tickets from a sales booth in the city.

"I don't remember any other match like this in my whole life.

"I'm sure Afghanistan are going to score a dozen goals and win. We have a strong team. I have bought 10 tickets and I also have Afghanistan flags to wave. I'm very excited."

Tickets cost between 100 and 300 Afghanis (USD $2 and $5) for the game, which will be played on an artificial pitch at the 6,000-seater ground.

The fact that we are hosting our first international game in 10 years, and the first against Pakistan in Kabul since 1977, represents a major highlight for football in our country.
AFF secretary general Sayed Aghazada

Retired Afghan football hero Mohammad Saber Rohparwar told AFP that the game should be a demonstration of unity between the two troubled nations.

"I hope it brings joy and hope to the people of both countries," said the former national captain, who has returned to Kabul from his home in Germany for the match.

"I hope the game helps rebuild trust and strengthen good relations."

He said he had returned to his homeland to give moral support and to help motivate the Afghan team.

"I have already seen them in action and am happy to see they are strong, motivated and professional."

Football chiefs in Pakistan, ranked 167th in the world, say the game will "create history" as the two sides meet in Kabul for the first time in 36 years.

"It is very exciting to send our team across the border to Afghanistan," Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told AFP.

Afghanistan and Pakistan frequently held sports fixtures in the past until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

"The fact that we are hosting our first international game in 10 years, and the first against Pakistan in Kabul since 1977, represents a major highlight for football in our country," AFF secretary general Sayed Aghazada told FIFA.com last week.

"It shows that after a very difficult period we are returning to normality.... Of course we expect a sold-out crowd."

Tuesday's game - at the separate AFF ground in the city - will be followed on Thursday by the start of the second season of the Afghan Premier League, with eight teams competing to be champions.