by Farid Behbud, Chen Xin
KABUL, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- "It is a great day. Millions of my war-tired people have fun today. It all thanks to football," an excited member of Afghan football champion team, Ahmad Hamid Jazemi, shouted among a crazy crowd.
The Afghanistan's first one-month long professional football league ended on Friday as western team Toofan Harirod beat northern team Simorgh Alborz 2-1 at the final match.
"'Toofan' means typhoon or storm and Harirod is an Afghan river in west. I have never thought one day I could be part of Toofan Harirod. I never thought football could bring such excessive fun to sport lovers in a war-torn country," Jazemi told Xinhua on Saturday after his team won the match held in a newly-built Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) stadium in Kabul.
Afghanistan Premier League, the country's first professional football league, was launched in July by the AFF with the motivations of bringing peace to the insurgency-hit country.
"Holding this league is a great achievement for Afghanistan's football. It is the first national championship in the history of sport. It is an important step for sports and would promote football in the country," said AFF president Keramuddin Karim.
The championship, which consisted of eight teams from across the country, would help AFF to choose players for the national team, Karim told Xinhua.
"It is my utmost desire to be an Afghan football star. I wish I could be a member of the national team one day. This league would help me to do so," said Jazemi.
"It was an wonderful moment when 19-year-old Maruf Mohmmadi scored just 24 seconds after the match began," he said.
"Then the fierce competition was on. We were fighting, but not to grab power and not for politics but for getting the golden ball. It is the sign of progress in Afghan football," said Jazemi, who has been playing in several provincial teams in western Herat province.
Since the collapse of Taliban regime, Afghan athletes have already joined several competitions at regional and international level and started bringing medals and honors to the country.
Beijing Olympic medalist, Rohullah Nikpa, won the only medal in London 2012 Olympic Games for his war-torn country.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had suspended the membership of Afghanistan in 1999 due to Taliban's brutal policies that included restrictions on the country's athletes.
The Taliban fundamentalist regime had outlawed a series of sports activities aside from forcing athletes to grow long beard and wear tall shirts and trousers during matches.
The IOC lifted the suspension in 2002 after the collapse of the Taliban regime.
The league players for each team were elected by TV audience via a landmark reality TV series "Maidan-e-Sabz", which means "Green Field", launched by a local Dari language TV channel TOLO in early July.
The first ever Afghan league was the first competitions broadcasted live by TOLO and the Pashto channel Lemar. Thousands of Afghans abroad could also watch the game in TOLO and Lemar.
Over 10,000 football-crazy Afghans were watching the match in the stadium in a sport enclave in Kabul.
The previous unprofessional competitions which involved little-known players had failed to capture the public's attention.
The AFF was founded in 1922, and has been a member of FIFA since 1948 and the Asian Football Confederation since 1954. It has become much more active since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
Toofan Harirod took away 15,000 US dollars champion prize while Simorgh Alborz recieved 10,000 for the second place.
The third position went to De Maiwand Atalan from southwestern region, which is known as Taliban stronghold in the country.
Five other teams are Shaheen Asmayee (Greater Kabul Region), Oqaban Hindukosh (Center), Mawjhai Amu (Northeast), De Spinghar Bazan (East) and the De Abasin Sape (Southeast).
"A professional footballer must live on football. But in Afghanistan, the majority of footballers and sportsmen must work to support their families who have suffered from economic woes and the enduring conflicts," Simorgh Alborz player Kawoon Malekzai told Xinhua.
"There is no winning or losing, soccer is about fun," he added.