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Is Afghanistan Better Than Pakistan in Football?

Afghanistan is currently ranked 158 in the FIFA World rankings and Pakistan languishes in the bottom 20 rankings of the world (195) but here lies the question of why a country that has been war-ravaged since the American-led invasion in 2001 improved drastically over the years in football.

Number of Matches:

Pakistan and Afghanistan last met each other in an official football match in 2015 at the Punjab Athletic Stadium in Lahore. Also known as the ‘Ian Rush’ Stadium, the Liverpool legend graced the stadium with his presence in 2019.

Saad Ullah Khan scored a stoppage-time winner in the game where Pakistan dramatically defeated Afghanistan to seal a 2-1 victory.

Saadullah Khan: The Captain Who Is Leading Pakistan Football to New Heights - Men in Green

Since then, Afghanistan has played 58 matches and joined the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) in 2015 despite the war between the US military and the Taliban.

The Afghan Football Federation has never stopped men’s football international matches and kept on organizing friendlies even when Afghanistan was staring at the face of adversity as a nation.

Pakistan on the other hand only managed to play 21 matches in these 9 years due to the never-ending political turmoil in the Pakistan Football Federation.

Instability in PFF Since 2015

Ever since Faisal Saleh Hayat left the PFF Office in 2017, the federation has failed to elect a proper president. In the last seven years, Pakistan did not have a proper elected president in the PFF, apart from Ashfaq Hussain Shah who was elected in the PFF elections held by the Supreme Court, which means that there was always instability.

Pakistan has faced multiple suspensions since 2015 due to constitutional issues. FIFA objected to the constitutional changes made by then President Faisal Saleh Hayat in 2014.

Initially Pakistan was banned for 6 months in the mid 2017 and the ban lasted till 2018 due to PFF’s continues refusal to not change the constitutions on FIFA’s directive. Faisal Saleh Hayat was the reason behind it as he did not want to lose his power over PFF and continued to pull the strings from behind the scenes from (2015-2019), at the same time he was fighting courts and there were two factions of the federation at the time.

FIFA appointed two Normalization Committees of Hamza Khan (2019-2021) and Haroon Malik (2021-2024) and both the NCs failed to conduct PFF elections which means the instability in the Federation continues to this date.

Ashfaq Hussain Shah was illegally elected as the President of PFF on the interference of Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 2018, (third-party interference in PFF is prohibited by FIFA).

In 2021 Haroon Malik led PFF NC was appointed by FIFA and Ashfaq Hussain Shah was directed by the FIFA to leave the PFF House as they were elected illegally and they negated the regulations and statutes of FIFA.

Pakistan was slapped with another Ban in March 2021 when Ashfaq Hussain Shah attacked the PFF House property and created chaos in Pakistan football, it should be noted that a Normalisation Committee appointed by FIFA has never been attacked in any country but Pakistan.

The last ban was finally lifted in July 2022 after more than a years turmoil and since then Pakistan football team has started playing international matches under Haroon Malik led NC.

Multiple bans and suspensions are the reason that Pakistan only played 9 matches from 2015-2022 which is a shambolic number for any member association of FIFA.

Under Haroon Malik-led NC that stat improved after the ban was lifted and the Pakistan men’s national team has played a total of 12 matches since 2022.

Recruitment of Overseas Players

Expats and diaspora players have been profusely used by the Afghanistan players. Their playing XI against Mongolia in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Round 1, is a true testament to that.

Players like Farshad Noor and Najim Haidary are both diaspora players who were born in the Netherlands and featured in the playing XI against Mongolia as well.

Farshad Noor - Stats and titles won - 2023

Najim Haidary - Wikipedia

Faysal Shayesteh and his family migrated to the Netherlands during the war in Afghanistan and since his childhood, he has lived there and gained experience while playing in different European and South Asian leagues. The player represented Sreenidi Deccan in the I-League as well which is the 2nd Tier of Indian Football.

Afghanistan football team captain eyes victory against Singapore - Khaama Press

Taufee Skandari plays as left-back for Afghanistan and he went to England one year following his birth in Afghanistan and has been trained overseas since a very young age.

Skandari, Taufee Skandari - Footballer | BDFutbol

Afghan midfielder Noor Husin played for the Crystal Palace academy at a very young age and was one of the main players for Notts County in the lower divisions of England.

Noor Husin: Notts County midfielder proud to represent Afghanistan in England | Football News | Sky Sports

Zelfy Nazary is another player who migrated from Afghanistan to Australia at the age of 5 and has played most of his career in the Australian A-League which is the top division of Australia.

Zelfy Nazary - Submissions - Cut Out Player Faces Megapack

Omran Haidary is Afghanistan’s right winger who also featured in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Mongolia and at the age of 9 years he migrated to the Netherlands.

Omran Haydary

Their Midfielder Rahmat Akbari has been living in Australia since the age of 5. He was born in Afghanistan but his family migrated to Pakistan just after his birth. The boy from the Hazara Community lived in Pakistan for 5 years.

Soccer star: Rahmat Akbari in Football Federation Australia academy | The Courier Mail

Mustafa Azadzoy plays in Germany’s 4th tier which is the fourth division of the Bundesliga. He was only 6 months old at the time when his family left Afghanistan for a better future and migrated to Germany.

Mustafa Azadzoy • Right/Left Winger • Attacking Midfielder • Highlights ▻ 2022/23 - YouTube

Omid Popalzay also migrated to the Netherlands at a very early age and he honed his skills in the Dutch Academy of NEC. He also has Dutch nationality.

Omid Popalzay

Afghanistan’s 29-year-old forward Jabbar Sharza migrated to Denmark in his infancy years with his family and has mostly played for Danish clubs to improve his skills.

Jabar Sharza Net Worth in 2023 How Rich is He Now? - News

The main reason for Afghanistan’s success has been recruiting expats and players who left Afghanistan with their families in their infancy. They are also looking to add some more diaspora players soon, especially after their three players Shayesteh, Noor Husin, and Farshad Noor were banned from the national team for life following their protest against the Afghan Football Federation.

The Afghan football team will now face a tough task against the best side in South Asia, India who will look to qualify for the World Cup Qualifier Round 3 for the first time and Sunil Chettri’s men will aim to make history after their AFC Asian Cup debacle.

Following a thrashing against Qatar by 8-1 and succumbing to a 4-0 defeat against Kuwait where the Afghan team fielded their second-string team, their dressing room will be confident this time to turn things around with most of their main players out.

The big question is will Pakistan replicate the same model in football as Afghanistan in the coming years?

Stay updated with everything related to PSL 2024 here.

  • No wonder Pakistan foot ball federation could not arrange matches for National team. Our organizers are busy in fighting for the top slot of Foot ball federation.
    Very sad war torn country( Afghanistan) has better managed their foot ball from us. We can’t blame govt for every I’ll. It is the fault of ordinary people who never raised their voice against this debacle

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