UK & World News
Afghanistan United Over Historic Football Win
Cheers and gunfire rang out in Kabul as an unprecedented football triumph prompted a rare moment of shared joy for Afghans.
Tens of thousands of euphoric Afghans took to the streets to celebrate their national football team's first ever trophy - before officials asked jubilant fans to stop firing their guns into the air.
The side beat India 2-0 to win the South Asian Football Federation championship in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, giving Afghanistan a rare moment of shared joy.
President Hamid Karzai embraced members of the victorious team, while fans in cars and on motorbikes joined others on foot, cheering, blowing horns and waving Afghan flags throughout the night.
Many danced in the streets of the capital after crowding around television sets in their homes, restaurants, cafes and shops to watch the match.
Fan Ahmad Bashir, an Afghan flag draped over his shoulders, said: "Now I know what being proud feels like, this is the happiest time in my life.
"I have no idea what we will do if we ever win the World Cup."
Most of those out in the streets of the strictly conservative Muslim country were men, although some families in cars joined in the celebrations, many shouting "Zindabad Afghanistan!" (Long Live Afghanistan!).
Afghans have endured three decades of conflict, stretching back through the occupation by former Soviet forces, a civil war, austere rule under the Taliban and then another 12 years of war since the invasion of the United States and its allies.
Such celebrations would have been unimaginable under the Taliban, which banned music and television, and forbade women access to education and most public gatherings.
The Taliban also banned most sport, and even used the national football stadium in Kabul for public executions.
In a statement issued by the presidential palace, Mr Karzai said: "Our youths proved that we have the ability to make progress and win."
The president's office tweeted a picture of him watching the match on Tuesday night in the palace.
Celebrations continued throughout Thursday, a brief respite for Afghans who fear increased violence as most foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.
The night erupted into gunfire in Kabul and elsewhere across Afghanistan immediately after the match as fans fired AK-47 assault rifles - commonplace in many Afghan households - into the air in celebration.
Witnesses said many of those firing into the air had been police, while some residents feared the gunfire signalled an attack by the Taliban - with warning sirens being sounded in some foreign embassies.
The Afghan Interior Ministry congratulated the team in a statement - but had to send out a second statement on Thursday urging people to stop the celebratory gunfire because of the risk posed by bullets falling back to earth.