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In First Meeting Since 1970s, Afghanistan Tops Pakistan In Soccer

Afghanistan's soccer players dance to celebrate beating Pakistan, in a friendly match played Tuesday in Kabul.
Afghanistan's soccer players dance to celebrate beating Pakistan, in a friendly match played Tuesday in Kabul.

Soccer fans are strutting in Afghanistan today, after their national team defeated neighboring Pakistan, 3-0, in a friendly match sponsored by FIFA, soccer's governing body. Before Tuesday's match in Kabul, the two teams had not played each other in more than 30 years.

Afghan media relished the win, with the Pajhwok news agency declaring, "Afghanistan lash Pakistan in historic soccer duel."

TOLO News, which televised the game live, noted that it had been a long time since Pakistan's team last visited — and "after today's trouncing, it may be another long wait before they are willing to do so again."

According to the Afghan Premier League, the two national squads last played in 1976, when Afghanistan capped the country's anniversary celebrations with a 1-0 win in Kabul.

NPR's Sean Carberry was at today's game; he filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"Thousands of fans, and hundreds of security forces, packed into the small stadium in Kabul. After a slow start, the Afghan team scored, and then never let Pakistan back into the game.

"Abdullah is a street vendor who paid about three dollars for his ticket.

"'Afghans have suffered 30 years of war,' he says in Dari, 'so we need this kind of entertainment.'

"But Mohammad Yousef Kargar, the coach of the Afghan team, says the game was about more than entertainment.

"'So, one of the prime objectives of this match was to bring two nations together,' he says.

As Sean reports, the 3-0 win certainly united the Afghans. The game is the first in a scheduled home-and-home series between the two nations. It also served as revenge of a sort, as Afghanistan's victory came one day after its national under-23 team lost to Pakistan in cricket.

We apologize to anyone whose DVR plans were spoiled by this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.