Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Somethings worth not fighting over.

In a region where an innocent word or gesture of one person can be a deadly insult to another, there are still some things that will bring people together. The friendly football match between Afghanistan and Pakistan was one.
A sniper team peered down from one corner of the bleachers, another perched atop the roof of the VIP area, trucks with machineguns were parked at the stadium gates and hundreds of shield-toting riot police stood between the stands and the field.

Even the blimp floating nearby was NATO’s, not Goodyear’s, its job to warn of incoming missiles and mortar shells rather than to sell tires.

The trappings for Afghanistan’s first home match against its arch-frenemy Pakistan in more than 35 years were what you would expect for a high-profile soccer game in a city that is a frequent target for terrorists.

Adding to the game’s baggage were the facts that Afghans believe Pakistan controls those terrorists, Pakistanis blame Afghanistan for violence in their nation, and the two countries only months ago were shooting at each other in the latest of years of border skirmishes.

In the end, though, it was a just a game, a faint whiff of normalcy in a city where not so long ago the Taliban used another soccer field for public executions.

For many in the sellout crowd of 6,000 wildly enthusiastic soccer fans, it was a particularly special break from the stress of living in such a place. And a chance to savor a dominating 3-0 victory over a longstanding rival, and to mark Kabul’s return to hosting international soccer matches for the first time in a decade.

Other than national pride, little was at stake in the match, which was the kind known in the soccer world as a friendly. The organizers played on that, dubbing it the “Friendship Match” and promoting the game as soccer diplomacy.
And so they had a peaceful match. Good thing they weren't playing the Brits.


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