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Afghanistan to play first home game for 10 years

ZURICH (Reuters) - Afghanistan will host their first international soccer match for 10 years when they play Pakistan in a friendly next Tuesday, soccer's governing body FIFA said on Friday.

The match will take place on an artificial pitch at the AFF (Afghanistan Football Federation) stadium, FIFA said.

"The fact that we are hosting our first international game in 10 years, and the first against Pakistan in Kabul since 1977, represents a major highlight for football in our country," AFF secretary general Sayed Aghazada, told FIFA.com.

"It shows that after a very difficult period we are returning to normality.

"Afghan football has improved in terms of organization and infrastructure, and we now believe that football can play an even bigger role in our country. Of course we expect a sell-out crowd."

Turkmenistan were the last team to visit Afghanistan for a match, winning 2-0 in 2003.

Ranked 139th in the world, Afghanistan are unbeaten in three outings this year, having beaten Sri Lanka and Mongolia and drawn with Laos.

"This is a very symbolic game for the whole football community in south Asia which confirms that our sport can contribute to promote a positive relationship between neighbor countries," said Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary general Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.

FIFA said that next week would also see the start of the eight-team Afghan Premier League, which will be played for the second time.

The tournament features teams from the whole country who are selected from a scouting process implemented by the AFF. All matches are played in Kabul at the AFF stadium and are televised live.

(Reporting By Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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