AFGHAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Under the Taliban government, sport in Afghanistan was banned. In Kabul, the Ghazi Stadium where young Afghans once played football became home to public executions. Whilst the Afghanistan of today is very different with much political, economic and social development, the country remains overshadowed by its recent past with memories of the ruthless crack down of all entertainment and the brutal treatment of women fresh in the minds of those who had lived through the Taliban era.
In the hope of reigniting the long lost passions of Afghans and creating a platform for social change, Moby took advantage of Afghan’s love of football and worked hand-in-hand with the Afghan Football Federation (AFF) and Roshan (Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications provider) to introduce to Afghanistan its first ever Afghan Premiere League (APL).
In order to create positive headlines and a narrative of success that Afghans could feel proud of, Moby approached the AFF with the idea of creating a league that would receive promotion, funding and sustained coverage - the proposal received unanimous support. Defining a vision and principles, including adherence to FIFA rules and a number of social ideals such as meritocracy, fair play and social betterment, the APL was born in 2012 and is now in its fourth season.
The APL also serves as a platform for a number of social activities. Moby developed a series of youth football clinics, reaching over 3000 girls and boys, whereby APL players and its coaches taught football and conditioning skills, as well as mentoring participants on the importance of staying in school, staying away from drugs and treating other people with respect regardless of ethnic group. Furthermore, in partnership with national anti-drug efforts, APL players served as goodwill ambassadors, visiting schools and rehab centers across the country.
Reactions to the Afghan Premiere League have been overwhelmingly positive. Despite a stadium capacity of 5,000, the very first game of the APL saw 10,000 fans turn up, signaling the start of a new chapter for the country and a symbol of something much more profound – unity.
Off the field, the success of the APL has created some 3000 jobs and inspired the introduction and live broadcast of the first ever women’s tournament. The success of the platform has been leveraged by aid and development organisations, such as the United Nations and the US and UK Governments to promote democracy, peace, women’s empowerment and health.
The APL has succeeded where so much has failed, uniting the country around a single passion: football. In 2014, the APL launched the “One Voice, One Afghanistan” campaign, which fans began chanting at matches and which has become the official slogan of the league at games and on social media as well. The APL has positively shifted social norms, challenged entrenched ideas and presented new ones.