Good footballing news from Afghanistan and Iraq

A 9-1 drubbing by The Maldives in their opening game in the 2005 South Asian Football Federation Championships in Karachi yesterday is not the end of the world for the Afghanistan national team. “We want to lay the foundation so that in two or three years the Afghan team is able to compete in the Asian arena,” the team’s new German coach, Klaus Staerk, told AFP earlier. Germany is assisting the Afghan squad and also financed a 10-day training camp in a German town earlier this year.

Before the repressive Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001 by the US-led military intervention, Islamist radicals had turned the national stadium in Kabul into an execution centre. They forbade men from playing football in shorts and, just five years ago, shaved the heads of a visiting Pakistani team who defied the ban. The internationally recognised government of president Hamid Karzai has lifted all such edicts. Now Afghans, including the millions of exiles who have returned from Pakistan and India, have chosen football and cricket as the most popular pastimes.

Staerk admits, however, that even basic issues like accommodation and nutrition are still problematic for his national team, with none of the Afghan players having a job. “So it’s difficult to get fit and achieve higher aims, but we will give it the best try,” he said.

IN IRAQ, the Football Association (IFA) has set up its first ever referee’s training centre, a project which aims to develop the skills and standards of referees in line with FIFA’s guidelines on grooming your referees. The centre is in full operation with the training of its first batch of 15-year-old. The youths undergo a 12-month course with daily sessions lasting up to four hours, giving them a total of 192. Should a trainee miss 20 hours of lessons, he is expelled. The centre includes a fully-equipped lecture hall with modern equipment including data projector, CTV, VCD, refereeing slides, football pitch, balls, whistles and other facilities.


Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka 2-1 in the ongoing South Asian Football Federation Championship in Karachi. "The people in Afghanistan are football crazy but unfortunately the game has been overshadowed by political turmoil," said Afghanistan team manager Ali Askar Lali as quoted by AFCMedia. "It is difficult to make a comeback but slowly we will make it big." (12 Dec)