Stage set for Afghan-Pakistan soccer duel
Led by Samar Ishaq, the Pakistani squad arrived in Kabul around midday for the encounter which will be played on an artificial pitch at the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) Stadium in the capital.
Ranked 139th in the world, Afghanistan were defeated 2-0 by Turkmenistan in the last international match in Kabul in 2003. Away from home, the national side thrashed Sri Lanka and Mongolia this year.
On the eve of the first duel between the neighbours since 1977, both teams sounded confident of a win. The visiting skipper exuded confidence they were prepared for the much-awaited soccer battle and would perform well.
But AFF official Mohammad Yousaf Kargar said the fact that the friendly would help the neighbours to enhance their exposure and experiences was more important than the outcome.
He hoped the match would prove a giant stride toward bringing the neighbours closer and sharing their experiences. Despite their lack of exposure and resource, the Afghans had improved a lot over the past decade, he said.
Four referees from Tajikistan will supervise the event, according to Sayed Aghazada, the AFF secretary-general, who said hosting the first international game in 10 years represented a major highlight for football in Afghanistan.
Pakistan Coach Zavisa Milosavljevic said both teams were comprised of young players who had made elaborate preparations for the game. “We would whatever we can to win this match,” he said, voicing his satisfaction with security arrangements.
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