James Dorsey: Afghanistan's Future: Civil War or Soccer Rivalry?
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 stabilize 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."
.. U.S.-led international forces played shortly after their overthrow of the Taliban an Afghan team in Kabul's Ghazi Stadium to highlight the change they were bringing to the war-ravaged country. Last December, Afghan leaders together with U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker and the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, attended the festive opening of Kabul's completely refurbished 25,000 seat Ghazi stadium to highlight progress from the days that the Taliban used it for public executions and amputations of limbs.
The hope now is that the new league's eight teams who represent different parts of the country with a history of being at loggerheads with one another will compete on the pitch instead of the battlefield once U.S. forces have left despite the fact that some of them bear the names of fiery birds: the Eagles of the Hindu Kush in central Afghanistan, the Goshawks from southeastern Afghanistan and the Falcons of Kabul.
The recruitment of players also serves the effort to bridge the country's fault lines. Selection takes place on a reality television show, Maidan e Sabz or Green Field, for which thousands of Afghans have applied. The audience of each show selects 18 out of 30 candidates whose performance is judged by a group of former Afghan national team players and coaches who pick 15 players while the studio audience votes for the final three. ...