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Kabul, August 26, 2013 (NPR) - Afghanistan and Pakistan are better known for their verbal fights and occasional border clashes, but for the first time since 1976, they battled on a soccer field in Kabul.  

Ahmad Mirwais, a 27-year-old tailor, was one of those lucky enough to score a ticket. "It's good to hold such events," says Mirwais. "The two countries criticize each other all the time in the media. Let's leave that behind and create sincere relations by holding sports matches." 

 

 

 

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Relations have been on the downslide this year. There have been deadly clashes along the disputed border. Afghanistan continues to accuse Pakistan of hindering peace talks with the Taliban. Some Pakistani officials say President Hamid Karzai is an unreliable partner in that process. And each country accuses the other of harboring anti-government militants. 

Despite the often bellicose rhetoric between the governments, the soccer game went off without incident and the teams shook hands afterward. 

"For 12 years, President Karzai didn't achieve anything from Pakistan," says Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament watching the match from the VIP section of the small stadium. She says the two countries have many shared interests, particularly defeating extremism. 

"The non-military government of Pakistan, they try to be helpful," says Barakzai. “But, it‘s the Pakistan military that controls policy toward Afghanistan.”

According to political analyst Davood Moradian Pakistan is going to wait to see who is elected to replace Karzai next spring. "Pakistan will not make any substantive deal with an outgoing president," he says. 


So, for now, the Afghan people have to settle for small steps, like the soccer game, and their team's 3-0 victory over Pakistan.