Proud to lead Afghanistan: Faysal Shayesteh

Faysal was part of Holland under-15 and under-17 teams before he was picked to represent the Afghanistan senior side by German coach Erich Rutemoller. He made his senior debut last year against Kyrgyzstan but is yet to play a match in Afghanistan.

Faysal Shayesteh was a part of Holland under-15 and under-17 teams.   -  S. Gopakumar

Faysal Shayesteh was a toddler when his father, a doctor who had a flourishing practice in Kabul, migrated to Holland following the internal strife in Afghanistan.

Twenty three years later, Shayesteh senior is now retired and still lives in Holland while his son captains the Afghanistan football team. Faysal and his team-mates represent the dream of many people in Afghanistan who find solace in victories of their sports teams.

“I know how important sports is to our people. It is something which unites the whole nation. As a footballer, nothing gives me more satisfaction than a win that makes people happy,” said Faysal.

Faysal and his older brother Qayas became professional footballers and both have represented Afghanistan. “Our father is a great football fan. There were lot of kids playing football in the place where we stayed in Holland. Our father encouraged us to play football,” said Faysal.

‘I want peace to return in my homeland’

“My father doesn’t want to return to his homeland [as] there are certain things which he is not happy with. To me it is a great honour to captain the country. I am proud of my country. I was born in Kabul and I speak Afghani. No matter where you go and where you live in your heart you are from Afghanistan. It gives me a lot of pain when I hear about bomb blasts and killings. I want peace to return to my homeland,” he says.

Faysal was part of Holland under-15 and under-17 teams before he was picked to represent the Afghanistan senior side by German coach Erich Rutemoller. Faysal made his senior debut last year against Kyrgyzstan but is yet to play a match in Afghanistan.

“We play our homes matches in Iran because of the war. I have never played in Afghanistan. Of course I would love to play in my country but things are not right at the moment. For this tournament we trained in Qatar. Cricket has now become more popular in Afghanistan now. It is more organised than football. Our football federation is trying their best to make the game popular.

‘It’s a great honour to lead the side’

There are lot of talent in Afghanistan. But I feel that our football season is only for three months which is too short. Players are inactive for longer periods and that is not good for the development of the game,” said Faysal who plays for Thai club Songkhla United.

Handed over the responsibility of leading the team by new coach Petar Segrt two months ago, Faysal said he was enjoying the additional responsibility and has word of praise for the coach who shares his mindset. “He is a good coach who allows players to enjoy their game and gives us freedom to be creative on the field. He believes in playing attacking football. Personally I am enjoying the additional responsibility. It is a great honour to lead the side and I am enjoying it,” said Faysal.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has made his presence felt in the championship, where Afghanistan is competing for the last time, finding the back of the net twice in three matches. Both Faisal and his team have impressed football fans here with their attacking brand of soccer. “We want to win this championship for our people back home. Many of them are not as privileged and it would be great if we can give them some happiness with our win here,” said Faysal.