News - Afghanistan
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday met the Afghan Premier League champions Toofan Harirod and the three other finalist teams, praising the teams for their sporting aptitude and the hope they bring to the future of the national squad.
Karzai said the league was a major step towards improving the Afghan national team to one day take on the heavyweights in other countries, including those of the European league.
"The [Afghan Premier League] showed the world that Afghanistan has good sporting talent and it's a major step towards improving the national football team," Karzai said.
"The most talented from these teams should be invited to the national team so that in the future we defeat our neighbouring countries and the European teams," he said to a round of applause from those attending.
"The Americans don't have any power in football, but we should try to defeat the Europeans," he added.
The three other teams who made it through to the semi-finals of the eight-team competition – Simorgh Alborz, De Maiwand Atalan and Spinghar Bazan – attended the meeting in the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
Karzai encouraged them to work hard to win the future championship title. The Afghan Football Federation has confirmed the league will be held next year.
The coach of western zone Toofan Harirod, the only team to remain undefeated throughout the competition, said at the meeting that his team would work hard for next year.
"We will work hard for the next summer league, to start the session with high morale," Moean Hamidi said.
The coach of the north zone team, Simorgh Alborz, who were just defeated Friday by Harirod in the grand final, said he will continue to build a strong team for the next season.
"While we return to Mazar-e-Sharif, we will start a football competition among the five northern provinces and we will invite the talented footballer into the team," Fahim Sharif said.
Harirod beat Alborz 2:1 in the grand final in Kabul on Friday before a packed stadium with fans traveling from across the country to support their teams.
A number of high-level government and political figures also attended.
The league is fully supported by the international football federation FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.
The other four teams who did not make the finals were Shahin Asmayee, De Abasin Sapi, Oqaban Hidokush and Mawjhai Amu.