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Pakistan excited by looming Afghan football match

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Afghanistan national football team players pose for a group photograph during the Saff championship 2011 final football tournament at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium (JNS) in New Delhi on December 11, 2011. Pakistan football authorities on Saturday said they were delighted at the prospect of playing their first match in Afghanistan for 36 years. (AFP/File)

Pakistan football authorities on Saturday said they were delighted at the prospect of playing their first match in Afghanistan for 36 years, and hoped it could pave the way for more ties with their neighbour.

Pakistan's national team will play the friendly in Kabul on Tuesday, the first international match in the war-ravaged city since Afghanistan faced Turkmenistan in 2003.

"It is very exciting to send our team across the border to Afghanistan," Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told AFP.

"This match on August 20 will create history because the last time we played an international (in Afghanistan) was way back in 1977."

Pakistan and Afghanistan frequently sent sports teams to each other's country in the past but the Russian invasion in 1979 cut off ties.

Lodhi said excitement was bubbling up on both sides of the border.

"People, players and officials in Afghanistan are also as excited to host us.

"They have agreed in principal to send their team to Pakistan in March or April next year," said Lodhi.

The friendly will provide both countries with much needed practice ahead of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Nepal which runs from August 31 - September 11.

Pakistan are placed in Pool A along with champions India, Bangladesh and Nepal, while Afghanistan are in Pool B alongside Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

Afghanistan were runners-up to India in the last SAFF Championship held in India in 2011.

Afghanistan is currently placed 139 in FIFA rankings against Pakistan's 167.

Pakistan is expected to be captained by seasoned goalkeeper Jaffer Khan. A final squad will be announced on Sunday.

Afghanistan Football Federation secretary Sayed Aghazada said the match was a major moment in his country's sporting history.

"The fact that we are hosting Pakistan for our first international match in ten years, and first against them since 1977 represents a major highlight for the sport in our country," Aghazada told FIFA.com.

"It shows that after a very difficult period we are returning to normality. Afghan football has improved in terms of organisation 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."