Kuala Lumpur, Sept 27, IRNA -- Afghanistan who last played in an international tournament in 1984 takes on Iran in an opening Group E encounter on Saturday (Sept 28), the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said.
In a statement faxed to IRNA here Friday, the AFC said the Afghans join
the North Koreans now as the "mystery teams " of the Asian Games football
tournament. Like the Afghans, the Koreans too are making a comeback to major international football competition after staying away in recent years.
Other than Iran, Afghanistan have Qatar and Lebanon for company in Group
E. Afghanistan had financial help from FIFA to participate in the Asian Games.
AFC General Secretary Peter Velappan said: "This is an exciting
development in Asian football history leave alone the Asian Games. "It is my belief that both Afghanistan and North Korea are teams with great potential and their participation in the Asian Games will help build confidence in the future."
"Both teams are capable of staging upsets in the tournament. This will
make their opponents very wary when they play them. "For the moment, both Afghanistan and North Korea may well seem like the star attractions of the football competition in Busan," he said.
The Afghanistan team arrived in Busan, Korea on Thursday, all eager to see
action in the football competition of the 14th Asian Games. The logistical difficulties in arranging for the football team to travel from Kabul to Karachi and to ensure they caught the flight to Busan as scheduled had caused some anxiety to both the Asian Games organizers and AFC.
The AFC had made the arrangements for the travel and participation of the
Afghan team in the Asian Games football competition. "We are delighted to see the Afghan team arrive safely in Busan as it was not easy making the arrangements for their trip here," Velappan said.
North Korea is in Group F of the competition with Kuwait, Palestine and
Hong Kong. North Korea plays Hong Kong in the opener on Velappan who is in
Busan also expressed the view that the Asian Games football tournament
will be of a high standard. He highlighted the fact that this is the first time the Asian Games tournament was being held at the Under-23 level and teams had gone to great lengths to prepare themselves.
"For Asian football this is part of the process of building strong
national sides for the future. It is another brick in the pyramid of
development. Watch out for the emergence of some new and exciting talent,"
he said. He stated that the FIFA World Cup 2002 fever was still very much evident in Korea.
"I expect to see good attendance at stadiums at all matches in the
football tournament. This is good for the game and a great encouragement
to teams," he explained.