Good news is often hard to come by in Afghanistan, making the country’s national soccer team’s surprise triumph on the pitch a welcome change. The underdog Afghan team bested India 2-0 to win its first international competition on Wednesday, the South Asian Football Federation Championship.
After the match, Afghan players danced on the pitch with the Afghan flag draped over their shoulders in celebration, the BBC reports. "You can't imagine how big this moment is for our country, our fans, our team and me," Afghan coach Yousef Kargar told the BBC.
The BBC reports that celebratory gunfire was heard in Kabul after the victory, as “millions of Afghans watched as their side made football history. Restaurants around the country were packed with fans following the game on TV.” Following the match, Agence France Presse reported that “out in the street, car horns blazed, guns rattled and groups of fans came together waving the Afghan flag.
The significance of the achievement, as well as the timing, was not lost on Afghans, reports the Washington Post: "It was not lost on the celebrants that Wednesday was the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that had branded their country a terrorist haven and plunged it into war once more. All day, national television stations here replayed film clips of New York’s twin towers falling and featured solemn interviews with experts about the event."
Under Taliban rule, soccer was severely restricted in Afghanistan and stadiums were often used by Islamists to stage public executions.