Countrywide celebrations breakout as Afghans win
KABUL (PAN): Afghans across the country burst into celebration over the national football team’s historic victory against India to bring home the nation’s first international soccer title on Wednesday, as bullets whizzed through the air in Kabul City in jubilation.
Afghanistan won the South Asian Football Federation Championship, beating India 2-0 in a tough and fast-faced final. The match result, which coincides with the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US, brought a rare moment of unity to the ethnically fractious, war-weary nation.
In Kabul, young and old, packing cafes, restaurants and businesses, cheered, clapped and laughed as their team seized the win in Kathmandu, Nepal. Car horns blared, and some Afghans waved national flags on the streets. The gunfire, meanwhile, continued for about an hour after the win, raising safety concerns.
President Hamid Karzai, who congratulated the nation on the victory, sent his three Cabinet ministers to give the national side moral support as a group of lawmakers arrived in Katmandu in a helicopter from Kabul.
Residents in Kabul crammed around televisions sets in shops, restaurants, hotels and roadsides to watch the game.
As the win over India played out, President Hamid Karzai's office tweeted a photo of him watching the players celebrate their win.
"The youth of Afghanistan showed that our nation, our people have the ability to make progress and succeed," said a seemingly choked-up Karzai in a multilingual message posted on YouTube.
Even the Afghan intelligence service issued a statement congratulating the soccer champions. It also later issued a statement asking celebrants to stop firing guns.
Big crowds of youth celebrating the victory were seen in Mirwais Maidan, Deh Afghanan, Shahr-i-Naw, Khair Khana, Ahmad Shah Baba Mina, Karti Naw and other areas of the central capital.
“I have never been so much happy like I am today,” said Ahmad, a Mirwais Mina resident.
Idrees, another fan, said he asked his mother before the evening prayers to pray for the team’s success.
The victory was also celebrated in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Heart, Maza-i-Sharif and other big cities and towns.
The win avenged a loss in the SAFF Championship final two years ago, when India beat the Afghans 4-0.
On Wednesday, Mustafa Azadzoi put Afghanistan ahead early in the first half at Dashrath Stadium, and Sanjar Ahmadi doubled the lead in the second. When it was over, the players danced around the field with Afghan flags draped on their shoulders.
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