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Afghanistan’s futsal dreams just beginning


26 Sep 2017
Ashgabat, September 26, 2017: Afghanistan’s futsal fairytale suffered the cruelest of blows on Tuesday evening as Japan denied the nation the bronze medal they craved as due reward for an astonishing run to the latter stages at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Games. But while there were tears of disappointment in the locker room, the progress made since Afghanistan launched their campaign in the 17-team tournament with a 6-1 thrashing of China on September 16 is already apparent.

"At the beginning of this tournament we were world No. 106. Now we are 95th,” said Afghanistan team manager Din Mohammad Safi. “Maybe after this fourth place we will gain more and more points. And we hope to go into the top 20 in Asia.”

The Afghans have made significant progress throughout the competition, following up their opening day win over the Chinese with another 6-1 victory over the Maldives before a 4-2 defeat of eventual silver medallists Uzbekistan and a 4-3 victory against the United Arab Emirates.
 
A penalty shootout win over tournament hosts Turkmenistan in the quarter-finals set up a meeting with World Cup semi-finalists Iran, who advanced to the final to leave Afghanistan to meet the Japanese in the bronze medal match. Akbar Kazemi’s goal looked like it could earn Afghanistan a place on the podium, only for Shota Horigome to equalise and the Japanese to eventual prevail in the shootout.

“Our team is good, our management is good and this tournament was really good for us, but we haven't had luck,” said Safi. “When you go to penalties, the chances are 50-50. "It doesn't matter that we lost, anyway. It's the first time that Afghanistan have finished in the top four at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. This is very good for our country, everybody is happy.
 
"My kids are crying, but I said: 'Don't worry,' because we did our best. My chief in Afghanistan called me and he said: 'You are the champions, I'm happy'." Despite the loss, the future appears to be bright for Afghan futsal. "We all came here just to become champions, because six or seven players on our team play in the big league in Iran, and also in Afghanistan there are 200 gymnasiums with a lot of teams,” said Safi

"After cricket, it's now futsal as the major sport in our country. Futsal is very big now. "The game was shown live on three TV channels. My chief told me that when we get to the airport back home, there'll be lots of people waiting for and supporting us. "Also the government congratulated us on our tournament. Everybody is very happy now."
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