Afghanistan and Pakistan are better known for their verbal fights and occasional border clashes, but for the first time since 1976, they battled on a soccer field in Kabul.
Some 6,000 rabid Afghan fans cheered on their team, clad in red uniforms. There were horns, flags, and face paint. It looked like any soccer game in the world, except for all the riot police, snipers, and Blackhawk helicopters passing overhead periodically.
Ahmad Mirwais, a 27-year-old tailor, was one of those lucky enough to score a ticket.
Soccer fans are strutting in Afghanistan today, after their national team defeated neighboring Pakistan, 3-0, in a friendly match sponsored by FIFA, soccer's governing body. Before Tuesday's match in Kabul, the two teams had not played each other in more than 30 years.
Afghan media relished the win, with the Pajhwok news agency declaring, "Afghanistan lash Pakistan in historic soccer duel."
At the beginning of 2013 — with only a year before soccer's crown jewel event, the World Cup in Brazil — all was not rosy with the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team. There was that 0-0 tie with Canada, and then a 2-1 loss to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier.
I read the other day that 16,000 people have been recruited as volunteers for next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey, and suddenly it occurred to me: the Super Bowl is one of the great financial bonanzas of modern times. From the players to the networks to the hotels, everybody involved with it makes a killing. Why would anybody volunteer to work for free for the Super Bowl? Would you volunteer to work free for Netflix or Disneyworld?
For more than an hour Sunday, the U.S. men's soccer team was stymied by Panama's efficient defense and their own tight play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. But less than one minute after substitute Brek Shea entered the game, he tapped the match's lone goal into the net and sealed the championship.
The 1-0 victory at Chicago's Soldier Field extended the Americans' winning streak to a record 11 games and opened the door to a possible U.S. appearance in the elite Confederations Cup in 2017. An announced crowd of nearly 58,000 attended the title match.