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New football league kicks off in Afghanistan: report

New Afghan Premier League attracts crowds of thousands.
Afghanistan soccer 2 2011 06 27Enlarge
Afghan army soldiers play soccer on an American military base in Kandahar. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

Afghanistan's new Premier League, the country's first professional football league, is proving hugely popular, according to The Telegraph's Kabul correspondent, Ben Farmer. 

The league was born out of -- of all things -- a reality TV show, reported Farmer.

Players with mad football skills competed in front of a panel and were selected by a combination of coaches and viewers.

The result? Eight regional teams all competing for top spot. Farmer described a tense sporting atmosphere in Kabul ahead of the final match late Thursday: 

"Expectation at the first matches was so high that the Kabul venue was swamped with spectators and police had to use water hoses and sticks to repel crowds of ticketless boys swarming into the stadium."

The game determining the winning team, recognized by FIFA and the Asian football confederation, has drawn Afghan sports fans from all corners of the country. 

Over 250 Kandahar-based and Helmand-based fans have "braved one of the country's most dangerous roads for a six-hour coach journey to cheer on their new team" in Kabul, wrote Farmer.

Afghans have shown their love for the sport since joining FIFA in 1948, but have been frustrated by the lack of a nationwide league, according to Farmer -- that is, until now, thanks to Thursday's definitive 3-0 win by the Maiwand team. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/world-at-play/new-football-league-kicks-afghanistan-report