Afghan pride as Taliban execution pitch reopened
KABUL - Agence France-Presse
The reopening of the Ghazi Stadium ignites hopes that it will usher in a new future for Afghanistan. The stadium was used for executions during the Taliban ruling.It was once used by the Taliban to stage public executions, but Ghazi Stadium in Kabul reopened yesterday with hopes that a new pitch will usher in a new future for Afghanistan.
The Taliban, who ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, horrified crowds by driving onto the ground and administering their punishments, which sometimes included chopping off the hands of thieves.
But a crowd of nearly 5,000 people yesterday witnessed altogether different scenes with male and female athletes parading on the track surrounding a new artificial turf after a refurbishment funded by US government grants.
“The return of Afghanistan’s sporting culture is long overdue and the opening of this stadium can provide a beacon of sporting pride here in Afghanistan,” said US ambassador Ryan Crocker, who attended the reopening.
The new pitch will be certified by football’s world governing body, FIFA, allowing international matches to be held in the future.
Sport is bringing an element of hope to war-wracked Afghanistan.
The national football team recently reached the South Asian Football Federation finals, losing to India 4-0, and Afghanistan won the Asia Cricket Council T20 Cup in Nepal.
Daud, 40, a driver who only wanted to give his first name, was at the stadium in 1999 when he witnessed the execution of a woman called Zarmeena, who was accused of killing her husband.
Dressed in a blue burqa she was made to kneel on the pitch.
“The Taliban got the Kalashnikov, put it behind her head and shot her two times. She fell down on the ground,” Daud said.
“The crowd went very quiet. It was a strange and dangerous atmosphere. People were shocked and scared.
“Sometimes I remember that woman, I even dream about it.” But he said he hoped the stadium, once dirty and littered with bullets, would now be a symbol of hope in the country.
“Now the stadium is 100 percent changed,” he said.