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Afghan Women's Soccer Team Scores Big in International Debut


Six years ago in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan football looked like a thing of the past, banned for men and unimaginable for women, who were barred from all outdoor sport. Today the sport has made such a spectacular comeback that there are now 17 women's football teams. The Afghan girls team, an underdog compared against their much more experienced competitors, surprised and enthralled audiences at Pakistan National Women's Championship in Islamabad.

Hundreds of Afghan refugees who live in Pakistan turned out to cheer for the Afghan girls, many of whom wore head scarves along with their red jerseys. When the Afghan women scored their go-ahead goal against Balochistan to qualify for the final in Islamabad, the Afghan fans jumped to their feet chanting, "Long live Afghanistan!"

In a major upset, Afghanistan beat Baluchistan 1-0 to reach the tournament’s final. The lone goal was scored by Captain Shamila Kohistani in the 11th minute. Kohistani was also the team’s top-scorer for the entire tournament.  

"Yes, I was very confident to win this match and to reach the final. My team has high morale to win the championship," Kohistani told attending press. "We have never played outside Afghanistan. My players are very happy and our visit to Pakistan will promote goodwill and friendly relations between the two nations. Winning and losing is not so important, I always hope and wish to get experience in the game."

The team was created after a competition among the various girl’s soccer clubs in Kabul, with girls from many different parts of the country, including southern, central and northern Afghan provinces. The coach of the Afghan team, Abdul Saboor Walizadah, expressed his excitement about the performance of the Afghan team, which had never played on a regulation-sized soccer field before the tournament in Pakistan. Walizadah told reporters that it is not due to security concerns for female athletes that the Afghan team is inexperienced, but that Afghanistan does not yet have the sports infrastructure to support the women's game. The team is to be ranked by world soccer's governing body, FIFA, after its first series of games abroad.  

Despite the fact that the Afghan team lost 1-0 in a hard-fought final, the girls were spirited and excited by their chance to make history. "We have achieved a great milestone, being the first team from Afghanistan to compete outside the country and President Hamid Karzai wished us the best of luck before the final," said Captain Kohistani. "Football has changed our lives and competing in this event and being looked after so well by the hosts will remain in our memories forever."

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