"Boro, boro, boro!" (Come on, come on, come on!), A group of friends scream in despair when the ball approaches the rival goal. On the turf, the Herat Storm, his team, and the Eagles of the Hindukush, from Ghazni. But the real show is in the stands. Although the Football League of Afghanistan does not attract the crowds of a Real Madrid-Barcelona, the enthusiasm of the fans has nothing to envy. Just being there, defending its colors, is already a triumph over fear, after four decades of conflicts chained in the country.
The uniforms, blue and white stripes the Eagles and light blue the Storm, shine new on the well-tended lawn of the Football Federation Stadium in Afghanistan. The League, sponsored by a local telephone company and a foundation, is an effort by civil society to normalize the life of the country. Goes for its seventh season. But security forces the parties to be held in Kabul. The capital, like the rest of the country, is threatened by the Taliban, which the US evicted from power in 2001, and other insurgent groups. Hence the strict controls on access to the field.
The last game of the quarterfinals has attracted a thousand people, a little less than a third of the capacity. The majority are young, including several dozen girls, for whom a part of the stands is reserved, right next to the tribune of authorities. They are surprised to find out that their Iranian neighbors have accessed a stadium for the first time just a few days before or that the Saudis can only do so since last January. To them, it seems normal to be there and they are not worried about segregation either. "This way we are more protected," smiles Aina, a 20-year-old student who wears a ribbon with the color of her team and has come with her mother, who is also an amateur.
Opposite, the boys wave flags and chant slogans to encourage their team. The majority support to the Herati team leaves the Hindukush at a disadvantage. However, often, it gives the impression that what matters is fun, having a good time and forgetting the daily problems even for two hours. A good move comes from the side of the field that comes and boos when the ball touches the goal or goes out of bounds.
A whole generation that has not lived under the sway of Islamic extremists wants to turn the page and enjoy a normal life. "Sport is one of the few entertainments available," Tabesh explains amidst the thunderous noise of the vuvuzelas. Even so the 50 Afganis (0.6 euros) that tickets cost are not available to everyone in a country with 55% of the population below the poverty line.
On the grass stands out the blond ponytail of Zamarai Salangui, number 10 of the Eagles. "It's that he lives abroad," Jawad explains. But the side's efforts to score end up with a Storm player on the ground. The referee takes a yellow card.
The goals are expected, but when Herat manages to score in the 42nd minute, the stadium roars as if it were the World Cup final. The great triumph of all, players and fans, is to be there challenging the extremists.