As a suicide bomber struck at a Shia shrine in Kabul on Tuesday, the Afghanistan national football were in their hotel rooms, unaware of the tragedy.
As they awoke on Wednesday and prepared to play Bhutan in their final Saff Championship group tie in which they emerged 8-1 winners, news came through that one of their midfielders, Mustafa Hashmi, had lost four relatives in the blasts that left 60 dead in the capital and Mazar-i-Sharif.
Hashmi, who was benched for the tie, said, “I lost four cousins in the blasts yesterday with some as young as thirteen and fourteen years old. We were so happy when we came here but on hearing this sad news, I just cannot stop crying. How does one deal with such an incident?”
The midfielder had been benched but was embraced by every scorer.
Strangely, the tournament organisers refused to let the Afghan national team wear black armbands, to commemorate the solemn occasion nor allow a minute’s silence to be observed ahead of the 3pm kickoff. “We kept trying to explain to the officials that it was something that is usual, but they and the match commissioner refused to let us. It was the wrong thing to do,” Islam Amiri, who plays for Mumbai FC, told HT, adding, four U-17 internationals were critical.
Saff general-secretary Alberto Colaco said, “I am not aware of the incident. But if a team wants to wear black armbands or hold a minute’s silence, they must seek the permission of the match-commissioner.”