Afghanistan’s future: Civil War or Soccer Rivalry?

Soccer symbolises Afghanistan’s choices coming full circle as US forces prepare to withdraw from the Central Asian nation.
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Back in late 2001 and early 2002, US troops fresh from overthrowing the Taliban viewed soccer balls and shoes as just as basic to mending Afghanistan’s social fabric as beams and girders were to mending war-damaged buildings.

Soccer paraphernalia served as a tool to win hearts and minds and counter Iranian efforts to exploit the beautiful game for the same purpose.

A decade later, a major Afghan telecommunications company, Roshan Telecom Development Co., and media tycoon Saad Mohsen’s Moby Group are launching Afghan Premier League soccer in what David Ignatius of The Washington Post juxtaposes as Afghanistan’s post-withdrawal options: televised soccer rivalry or armed civil war.

Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) president Keramuddin Karim backed by sociological analysis argues that, "to establish peace and stabilise a country, one must not only focus on training soldiers. Sport is also a strong base for peace, as it embodies values such as unity, integration, pride and prevents racism, drugs and other elements that bring insecurity to the country."

Mr. Karim is taking a leaf out of the experience of other countries where sports in general and soccer in particular have had a cathartic effect by channeling human aggression away from violence and into more healthy channels. Nelson Mandela used a racially integrated national rugby team to unite South Africa in the wake of apartheid - a story now made famous by the movie Invictus.

South Africa went on to become the first African nation to successfully host the World Cup.

In a letter announcing the premier league that will include 8 teams, the AFF said that it would cut “across all ages, socio-economic groups, regions and tribes.” In fact, it will cut across regions and ethnic, tribal and religious groups that have in the past been at loggerheads with one another.

More on The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]    
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