The Afghan National Football team will leave Kabul for Bahrain this week in order to prepare for their World Cup Qualifier in Mashhad in Iran in early June.
Afghanistan will face off against Syria in a World Cup qualifying match on June 11, but before then, it will play Laos and Bangladesh.
In an interview with TOLOnews, Anwar Akbari and Said Muhammad Hashemi, two new national team players, discussed their upcoming trip. Both spoke of their personal paths to and motivations for representing their country on the football pitch.
"I was invited to the national team last year, and I was with other players in the Iran matches," Akbari said. "I want to play well for Afghanistan in order to bring more pride to my country."
Hashemi expressed a similar sentiment. "The reason that I became a footballer is because I always wanted to be a footballer since my childhood," he said. "I always dreamed of serving my country through football."
However, Hashemi also urged the Afghan government and business community to provide greater support for the country's athletes. The fact that the Afghan team must travel abroad to train and face international opponents so frequently is in part a result of security and political conditions in Afghanistan, but also the reluctance the central government has in sharing its very limited resources with the National Football Team program.
On a separate note, Coach Yusuf Kargar said there have been changes made to the roster ahead of the trip. Islamuddin Amiry, Rafiullah Barekzai, Bilal Arezo, Hashmat Barekzai, Amruddin Sharifi, Mujtaba Faiz and Farzad Attaie have reportedly been replaced with new players.
"Two players that you [TOLOnews] talked with today are the ones who also played for the U-23 National Team - they are the future of football in Afghanistan," Kargar said. "Due to some of the problems that I had faced, some of our players decided not to play with the national team; I will talk to them after these games, in order to convince them to come back," he added.