Karzai hugs footballers as Afghanistan cheers
KABUL (PAN): Thousands of people welcomed home their national football team and President Hamid Karzai embraced the players upon arrival at the Kabul International Airport from Nepal, where they beat India 2-0 to clinch the country’s first international trophy in the sport.
The team arrived home about 9am and warmly welcomed by Karzai and high ranking government officials and fans.
The national men's team beat India 2-0 to win the South Asian Football Federation championship in Kathmandu late on Wednesday, sending tens of thousands of joyous Afghans into the streets.
Fans in cars and on motorbikes joined others on foot, cheering, blowing horns and waving Afghan flags throughout the night. Many danced in the streets of the capital Kabul and the celebrations continued throughout Thursday. Last night erupted into gunfire in Kabul as fans fired AK-47 assault rifles and even machine-guns into the air in celebration.
The interior ministry and the intelligence agency congratulated the national football team in a statement. They had to send out a second statement on Thursday urging people to stop the celebratory gunfire because of the risk posed by bullets falling back to earth
President Hamid Karzai greeted the players at the airport. The team then headed to the Ghazni Amanullah Kahn stadium, where they were cheered by thousands of fans.
A statement issued from the Presidential Palace said President Karzai along with his Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians had reached the airport to welcome and greet the national football team.
Karzai hugged each team member, congratulated them and wished them more successes in the future. He also congratulated the nation over the victory. "The youth of Afghanistan showed that our nation, our people have the ability to make progress and succeed.”
As the squad headed towards the Ghazni Amanullah Khan Stadium, thousands of fans standing in long lines on both sides of the airport road welcomed the players and cheered and danced to the drumbeat. They chanted “long live Afghanistan.”
Kabul municipality workers dressed in their orange coloured uniforms also welcomed the squad by waving national flags.
“We are known for terrorism and drug smuggling, but actually we are longing for peace. We showed the world that we are peace loving,” Samiullah, one of the youth welcoming the national soccer team, said.
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