KUALA LUMPUR: So, a team from a war-torn country will come to Kuala Lumpur to do battle at the Airmarine Cup on March 20-23.
Afghanistan is the last minute replacement for Solomon Islands who withdrew on Thursday as Fifa rules do not allow them to play more than two matches during the Fifa international window from March 18-26 ( Solomon Islands are also scheduled to play Taiwan in Taipei on March 24).
After scrambling around with some quick phone calls, emails and negotiations, the FA of Malaysia managed to rope in Afghanistan.
They were announced yesterday as the fourth team to join Malaysia, Oman and Singapore in the four-team invitational at Bukit Jalil.
If World No 143 Solomon Islands are no big deal for our fans to watch them play at National Stadium, so how strong is Afghanistan?
We know Afghanistan are great at cricket — they hold the world record for the highest ever T20 score, 278-3 against Ireland.
But what about football?
Well, apart from swinging the with a bat, the Afghans are quite good in boots too.
Afghanistan may be a landlocked country but this has not stopped them from exporting footballers across the world.
Afghans play as professionals in England, Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh and Australia.
Most of them see action in European nations’ lower divisions.
Afghanistan’s Maziar Kouhyar turns out for Walsall in England’s League One while Noor Husin plays for Notts County in League Two.
Modjied Jamali represents Constancia in the Spanish fourth level.
And there is also an Afghan footballer in Malaysia. Striker Mustafa Zazai plays for Kelantan in the Premier League.
Besides Mustafa, Afghanistan captain Faysal Shayesteh had a two-season stint with Pahang before moving to the Thai league.
Afghanistan are currently ranked World No 147th, which put them way above World No 167 Malaysia.
Afghan football reached a high in 2013 when they emerged champions in the South Asian Football Federation Championship after beating India 2-0 in the final.
If Malaysian fans are jaded by watching the usual suspects at Bukit Jalil, the Southeast Asian teams, Afghanistan’s presence should add variety and spice up the action in the Airmarine Cup
However, the Harimau Malaya team will be boosted by the fact that they beat the Afghans 6-0 (in 2008) and drew 1-1 (in 2016) in their only two meetings so far.
National coach Tan Cheng Hoe said: “I observed a few Afghanistan matches during the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers. They are physically and technically good.”
“We know that many of the Afghan players are playing in leagues in Europe.”
Aside from their physical and tactical game, what else do we know about the Afghanistan team? The composition of the Afghan team is yet to be revealed.
The Malaysian camp may not know much about Afghan football but on the other hand, Afghanistan should know much about Harimau Malaya.
After all, the two Afghans, Mustafa and Faysal, have been playing in the M-League, and they make good spies for Afghanistan coach Anoush Dastgir.
Source from:- NSTP