Crash kills 9 Afghan football fans on way to final
Friday, 19 October 2012
KABUL: A head-on collision between a minibus and an oil tanker killed nine Afghan football fans and injured 28 others overnight as they headed for Kabul and the final of the country's first premier league, police said Friday.
The league has been greeted with great enthusiasm in Afghanistan, with the final on Friday afternoon between teams from the north and the west expected to draw huge crowds.
The fans, many of whom play for local teams, were on their way from northern Jawzjan province to Kabul on Thursday night -- a distance of more than 300 kilometres (190 miles) -- when they died on one of Afghanistan's notoriously dangerous roads.
"Unfortunately, nine footballers and fans were killed and 28 others were wounded in a tragic traffic accident as their vehicle collided with a fuel tanker on the Shibirghan to Aqcha highway late Thursday evening," provincial police chief Abdul Aziz Ghairat told AFP.
The death toll was confirmed by Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani, the deputy provincial governor, who said 36 were injured.
Eight teams took part in the league, with all games played in Kabul to try to minimise security risks in this war-torn country where Taliban insurgents are fighting to topple the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
Friday's final was being contested by Toofan Harirod (Storm of Harirod) from western Afghanistan and Simorgh Alburz (Firebird of Alburz) from the north.
Football gained a strong following among Afghans in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but the sport nearly died out during the 10-year Soviet invasion from 1979-1989 and the civil war that followed from 1992 to 1996.
Football was one of the few types of entertainment not banned by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule. The Islamists took advantage of the popularity of the game to carry out punishments and executions at half time during matches. (AFP)