Afghanistan Jumps Seven Places in FIFA Rankings
Kabul – Afghanistan has jumped seven places in the international football federation’s (FIFA) world rankings – the biggest mover in the latest edition of the rankings – boosted by its success in the 2013 South Asia Football Federation (SAFF) Cup. The Afghan football team rose to the132nd spot worldwide, after defeating India 2-0 on Wednesday.
Afghanistan also rose two places in the Asian rankings to settle at 19th in the continent. Afghan officials and football fans have been called the new ranking a “great achievement for the people of Afghanistan.” After defeating Pakistan 3-0 in a historic match back in August, the SAFF Cup victory – the first in Afghanistan’s history – marked the solidification of the country’s emergence as a regional football powerhouse.
“This big honor for the people of Afghanistan,” said a Kabul resident upon hearing of the new rankings. On Thursday, the victorious team was given a warm welcome by President Hamid Karzai, several other government officials and tens of thousands of fans in Kabul after returning from Nepal.
The historic victory sparked massive spontaneous street celebrations across the country. In Kabul, thousands of residents crowded the streets waving flags, singing songs and firing celebrators gunshots into the air for hours after the final whistle of the match blew. In a country where violence and economic hardship are a part of everyday life, the triumph of the Lions of Khorasan let loose of torrent of joy and national pride that lasted through the night, but will be remembered for much longer.
A crowd of over 20,000 people welcomed the national team players as they made their way from the airport, where they were greeted by President Karzai and his fellow officials, straight to the Ghazi Football Stadium to celebrate with fans and showcase the SAFF trophy. The players were met with booming chants of “long live Afghanistan.”
The Afghan team won four matches and drew one over the course of the week-long tournament. The championship win over India marked a fitting vindication after Afghanistan was defeated in the finals by the same opponent 4-0 in the last edition of the competition two years ago in New Delhi. (ToloNews)