Associate Minister's October 2013 Letter

Good News from Afghanistan

We are so used to bad news from Afghanistan that good news is hard to believe.  And yet there was real good news in September: the Afghanistan Football Team won the South Asia Football Tournament on September 11th!  Every other year the eight countries of South Asia compete for the Championship.  India have won 6 times and expected a walkover in the final this year against Afghanistan.  Yet Afghanistan won 2 – 0 and immediately celebrations erupted all over the country.  Guns were fired off into the air and anyone who had missed hearing the result thought some terrible firefight had broken out.

When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 football was severely restricted and stadiums were used for public executions and amputations.  Now football unites the country's ethnic groups - Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras - in celebrating victory in the final against their great rivals, India.

Surely a film will be made bringing out the irony of how events of  9/11, 12 years ago to the day, led to the overthrow of the Taliban and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan which has still no end in sight.  In fact it is Afghani footballers who play for foreign teams who now make up nearly half the national side and bring all that international experience with them.

It reminds me of the film Invictus (2009) which celebrated South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995. It was a wonderful story of how Nelson Mandela’s support of the Springbocks united the country behind the mainly white team.  Unfortunately the Hollywood treatment made the end of the film feel more like fiction that fact!

Even though the euphoria in Afghanistan during the days after September 11th 2013 was real it will take much more than a football win to really unite the country in peace and prosperity.  But surely that hope must be a little bit more real now.

Just a note to follow on from my article in August’s Editions – we did fly to Denmark and had a wonderful holiday travelling by train and ferry to the West Coast of Norway.

Christopher


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