Kolkata: The Afghanistan Under 17 football team will be playing their first international tournament in 23 years in Kolkata this week at the Asia Cup Qualifiers. They have a match with Nepal and later with India in a bid to qualify for the Under 17 Asia Cup scheduled for next year. Big opportunityFor years, football was banned in Afghanistan, during the reign of the fanatical Taliban regime and the trip to India is definitely a big opportunity. "It's very important for us to play football here. After the Taliban regime, we are stepping out to play for the first time. How we play is not important. That we are here in India to play is what is important," said coach Ali Askar Ali.For the eleven boys, what makes this tournament even more special is, this is the first time most of them have stepped out of Afghanistan."I want to take it step by step. Today I have come to your country to play football, tomorrow maybe I will go to other foreign countries to play football also," said Emall, a member of the Afghan squad.Looking aheadThe team has just had six months to prepare for the tournament and not with the best facilities either. There are just half a dozen stadia left in the war ravaged country today. But the team refuses to be treated as underdogs."We have come to play and obviously we would want to play well, and god willing, we will win and do better with every game," said Wais, another Afghan player.Football grounds in Afghanistan had turned into battlefields during the Taliban regime or, sometimes, arenas for public execution. Whether the visiting under-17 Afghan team wins a single match or not, what is more important is that they have actually been able to come to Kolkata to play.
Topics : Football