Football: Soviet Veterans VS Afghan Team in Kabul

Kabul‘s Olympic Stadium hosted a football game between Soviet veterans of the Afghan war (the Shuravi) and the Afghan team which is made up of football enthusiasts – including several Mujahedeen who fought the Soviets in the 1980s. RIA Novosti reporter Alexei Eremenko is in Kabul, and reported live from the game.

Live updates have been suspended as the match is over.  

All times are local time in Kabul.

12:32 – This game may be over, but stay tuned for RIA Novosti for more coverage of the Soviet veterans’ tour of Afghanistan – the home side will have at least one more chance to recover later this week.

12:29 – Afghan’s number 17 finally breaches this defense and makes a shot at the goal, but seems surprised by his achievement and sends the ball slowly rolling into the goalkeeper’s hands. AND it’s over. The Soviets win 1-0! But the Afghans still clap – they know a good fight when they see one.

12:26 – But the Afghans seem at loss about how to get past this Shuravi wall.

12:25 – One substitution on each team. The Shuravi have finally abandoned all attempts to attack and stand their ground on their side of the pitch, except for number 17, of course.

12:24 – The Afghans are in control of the ball, but struggle to get it to their strikers in the Shuravi penalty area, or anywhere else they can get a clear shot at the goal.

12:22 – The ubiquitous Soviet number 17 launches another blitz attack, racing four Afghans, but is downed past the central spot by an Afghan midfielder. The audience wants a yellow card for him, but the referee thinks otherwise.

12:21 – After rolling the ball around for minutes, the Afghan midfielder makes a dangerous cross to number 6 to the right of the goal box, but the goalie gets it first.

12:18 – Soviet surefooted number 14 – who is also the team coach – strikes from about 20 meters, but misses the crossbar by half a meter. The teams appeared to have forgotten about the mid-field and are trading attacks one by one. But few end with shots on goal.

12:16 – A great double attack by the Afghans! Soviet number 19 is in position to block number 20’s shot from outside the penalty box, and when the ball is crossed back to the penalty mark, the goalie takes the header.

12:15 – Another Afghan attack, but the Soviet defender blocks the ball, which bounces into the Afghan striker and leaves the field.

12:13 – Wow, that was close! Another pass from the Soviet side, and this time number 17 dribbles past both the defender and the  goalie to end up in the penalty area – but the angle is narrow, and he hits the goalpost. The Afghans retaliate by crossing the ball into the Soviet goal box, but the header by their number 10 goes above the crossbar.

12:11 – The Afghans appear stunned, almost allowing the Soviet number 10 to capitalize on a terrific high cross from the Soviet side of the field. But the Afghan goalkeeper – unlike his Russian counterpart in the first half – leaves the penalty area in time to kick it out.

12:10 – GOOOOOAAL!!! 0:1 as the Soviet number two gets a pass right outside the penalty area and calmly puts it into the right corner, past the goalkeeper.

12:09 – A blitz attack by the Afghans (where do these guys get the strength?) is literally dashed on Soviet shoulders.

12:08 – A Soviet one-on-one is cut short by a linesman who registers offside – but even some of the Afghan spectators doubt it.

12:07 – Two Soviet defenders fail to stop a ball flying to the goal box, but Afghan’s number 10 fails to land a clear shot, so the ball is finally kicked out by someone in the scrimmage.

12:05 – Strike! Dead on goal, but the Soviet goalkeeper is there, kneeling as he clutches the ball as if he’s praying to whatever God he worships.

12:04 – Back to mid-field, but the Afghans are slowly stretching the Soviet defense.

12:03 – And the Soviets strike back! Number 5 is downed to the left of the penalty area – yellow card for Afghan’s number 20 – and the freekick results in a header goal – but from the offside. There were, in fact, four Shuravi in the offside – they ARE eager to win, after all.

12:02 – Suddenly, a good cross two meters away from the Soviet crossbar, but the goalkeeper just barely manages to push it away. He is short and stocky, so it’s a bit of a struggle for him.

12:01 – Position game in the center, with both sides frequently losing the ball and committing minor fouls.

11:59 – Afghan’s number 11 races for the ball on the right flank, but the Soviet defender calmly kicks the ball out.

11:57 – But the Soviets blow it – the sails high above the crossbar. The Afghans keep six men on their side of the pitch even when they’re attacking. Better safe than sorry.

11:55 – And they’re off for the second half – and the very first Soviet attack is only stopped by a defense foul just outside the penalty area.

Second half starts

Rumor had it the Afghan officials did not want spectators at the game for security reasons. Army servicemen stroll around the field, but all’s quiet so far, except for the cheering audience, of course.

The Soviets are down to 10 after their goalkeeper stopped the ball outside the goalbox with his hands. But they showed no signs of backing down and playing for defense – both sides traded sharp attacks late in the first half.

The Shuravi sparred with the Afghans for 30 minutes on Wednesday, the game ending with 1:1. But it’s 0:0 after the first half of the official game, with the second half about to start.

The Soviet team includes some veterans who don’t play all that well – and during the break, they occupy half the field to spar with Afghan substitutes. They are enthusiastic, if not fast or technical, but walk away without goals.

End of first half 

11:38 – It’s break time in Kabul. The halves are down to 30 minutes each because it’s not easy for the Shuravi to play 1,700 meters above sea level, not to mention the sun. It’s +25 Celsius, but it feels like +35.

11:37 – Number 18 is on a roll, dribbling his way past two defenders to get a good shot. Not good enough – misses the goalpost by inches.

11:35 – Another offside for the Soviets, number 18 misses the ball by inches on the left flank. It could have been dangerous.

11:34 – Say what you will about the Shuravi, they appear unfazed about being one man down. A gray-haired number 17 ends up in offside right in front of the Afghan goalkeeper.

11:32 – The teams seem to be getting short of breath under the hot Kabul sun, and are in a sort of trench war in the midfield. The Soviet number 10 fails to reach a runaway cross on the right flank.

11:31 – Another close call for the Soviets! A cross that became a strike in mid-flight is missed by the goalkeeper, but also by the Afghan number 2, and bounces 50 cm away from the left goalpost.

11:30 – The Afghans attack, the Shuravis stand ground. Seems a reversal of the 1980s, or maybe it’s not.

11:28 This is surprisingly intense so far in Kabul but no goals and almost no fouls – until now. The Afghan number 10 appears surprised at his own impoliteness. The Afghans have a pretty loud 12th player, but he’s no use – the Afghan assault on the left flank is bogged down by the Soviet defense. The Shuravi seem to have learned a thing or two about defending themselves.

11:27 – The Afghan number 6 strikes, and a Soviet defender almost cuts the ball into his own goal, but is saved by the goalie. A nice comeback from the Shuravi, but the Afghan defense sends the ball over the seats before they can land a shot. Corner.

11:26 – Afghans get a freekick just outside the Soviet goalbox.

11:25 – The goalie, Ildar Galenutdanov, is from Bashkiria, which provided about half of the Soviet lineup. He was good in pre-game training, but this time, he waited just a bit too long before leaving the goalbox.

11:22 – And the Soviets are down to 10 after the goalkeeper grabs the ball outside the goalbox to prevent what would otherwise have been a one-on-one. Red card.

11:20 – The Soviet had a clear shot at the goal, but the Afghan goalkeeper blocks it and launches a counterattack that is ended by another elegant tackle by the Soviet number 19.

11:18 – A brilliant tackle from the Soviet number 3 stops what could be a two-on-one attack by the Afghans. The audience is still appreciative.

11:16 –  That was close, twice, for the Soviet team! First a free kick goes straight for goal, but is blocked by the goalkeeper, and then an attempt to prolong  the attack ends with an off-the-mark shot.

11:14 – The Soviet defense prevents the Afghan attacker from getting a ball in the goalbox, but commit an offense some 20 meters from the goalpost.

11:13 – A foul, though a pretty good-natured. The free kick launches another Shuravi offense, but number 10’s shot flies 10 meters above the crossbar.

11:12 –  First strike by the Soviets, but the ball goes wide off the mark. The Shuravi dominate so far.

11:11 –  The Soviets strike back, but the prospective one-on-one is cut short by the goalkeeper who gets to the ball before the Soviet number 10.

11:10 – First dangerous moment for the Soviets – they miss the Afghan striker in the goalbox. Good thing for them he missed the ball.

11:08 – And they’re off. Shuravi have the ball and start of with an attack that ends up mired in the Afghan defense.

The Shuravi do a sort of pre-game battle cry. The Afghans are just warming up.

There’s about 100-200 spectators in the stadium – both sexes, all ages, full of enthusiasm, many speaking good English. They say there was almost no pre-game publicity, otherwise the stadium would have been packed to capacity – about 5,000. Football is very popular in Afghanistan, and the Shuravi attract a great deal of curiosity (but no fear).

The teams are lined up for the pre-game phootoshoot and a round of shaking hands with the governor of Panjshir Province and other officials. The Shuravis are playing in white, the Afghans in red.


Updated changing headline from “Soviet Veterans VS Afghan Team- LIVE From Kabul” after the game ended.


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