Afghanistan’s football goals
By Chris Wang in Colombo
Al Jazeera (Qatar) / June 6, 2008
Harez Habib, Afghanistan midfielder, scored both his team’s goals in their 2-2 draw with co-hosts Sri Lanka at the 2008 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Colombo.
The impressive double were Habib’s first goals for Afghanistan in his fourth match for the national team, but he has not set foot in his native country since he was three years old.
Habib played his first football in Germany at the age of four, after his parents decided to move their family to Europe due to the civil war in Afghanistan.
However the 26-year-old, who will play for KSV Hessen Kassel in Germany’s third division next season, had no hesitation in signing up for national duty on the football field when his motherland came calling.
“I could have tried to play for Germany, but of course when the Afghan federation asked me if I wanted to play for Afghanistan, there was no doubt about that to play for my home country,” Habib told Al Jazeera during team training in Colombo.
“Yesterday was my fourth game for the national team, and yes they were my first two goals in one game… it’s like a dream.
“Of course it is a great honour to play for my country and score two goals in such a big game.”
The Afghanistan squad, coached by German Klaus Stark, is heavily influenced by Deutschland, with eight players plying their trade in the German leagues, and the team medical staff also from the Central European country.
“We have 22 boys, and eight of us come from Germany, and the rest from Afghanistan. We have the perfect mixture,” Habib said.
With the fall of the Taliban in 2001, participation in football and other sport in Afghanistan is on the rise as the populace continues its return to democratic life.
For Habib however, his life is currently in Germany, although he would one day like to return to the mountainous Central Asian nation.
“There was no time to go back to Afghanistan, because it was always very dangerous and my parents went two times in the last 15 years, but myself no,” he explained.
“When I go back it will probably only be for a holiday, maybe for a month to visit my family, but I think for living it is not possible.
“I am studying and my whole life is in Germany and it’s very hard to change.”
Afghanistan, who did not play an international match between 1984 and 2003, are continuing to work their way back into world football, with their appearance at a third-consecutive SAFF championship testament to the country’s desire to be noticed in the global game.
“I know that month to month, everything is developing… I see it in the national team,” Habib said.
“Last October I played my first game in a World Cup qualifier against Syria, and everything was on an amateur level.
“But after then, game to game we have developed a lot with the coaching team, our uniforms, everything.”
Although it appears Germany will be his home in the near future Habib still has strong feelings about Afghanistan, and there is no doubt his desire for national success is translated to his will to win on the pitch.
“My family tell me that there is a very enthusiastic atmosphere back in Afghanistan and of course the national team is helping that,” said Habib.
“Football is one of the most popular sports and if our team, which is a national symbol for Afghanistan, can be successful, it’s a great result for our country.
“We are not a famous football country, but after our results lately, other countries are starting to take us seriously.”