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Afghans disband national team after asylum bid
Updated: 2004-04-20 15:01

Afghanistan has disbanded its national soccer team after nine players disappeared from a training camp in Italy last week, an official said on Tuesday.

Six of the players have been arrested in Germany, where they sought asylum, and Italy has promised to hand them over to Afghan authorities soon, the official said, adding they would be punished for "damaging Afghans' honour".

"We have scrapped the team and plan to bring in new players instead after their shameful act," Halim Kohistani, head of Afghanistan's football federation, told Reuters.

"Italy has promised to hand over to us six of them who were arrested in Germany and we will punish them 100 percent when they return, after consulting the police and the court."

A series of games planned in Italy, the Afghan team's first appearance in Europe for 20 years, was aimed at raising money for Afghan orphans, Kohistani said.

Football is a popular sport among Afghans.

Although nearly 25 years of war and occupation ended with the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, the country remains impoverished and racked by violence from militants and warlords.

The last time an Afghan athlete sought asylum was in 1996 during the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Boxer Mohammed Jawid Aman was granted asylum.

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