Friday, March 22
American kicked, Afghans shot in leg during 'friendly' game

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A friendly basketball game between U.S. and Afghan teams turned violent, with one American player kicked in the head and two Afghan spectators shot in the leg, peacekeepers and witnesses said Friday.

The events on Thursday began when an American player fell on the court near the seating area of the Kabul stadium. An Afghan spectator stepped forward and kicked the player in the head, Flight Lt. Tony Marshall said.

An Afghan guard with the U.S. team moved in to try to push the crowd back. He cocked his machine gun and it went off unintentionally, Marshall said.

Two Afghan spectators were hit by bullets, both in the leg, said a witness, Wahid Ullah. Both were in good condition at Kabul's Italian-run emergency hospital, hospital administrator Rossella Miccio said.

The guard was taken into police custody, Marshall said.

He said the game had been played in an atmosphere of goodwill before the American was kicked.

The match occurred on the second day of a four-day tournament in the Afghan capital. The American team, which included soldiers, U.S. Embassy personnel and one British player, pulled out of the tournament, he said.

Calls seeking comment from the U.S. Embassy were not returned Friday.

Last month, a melee erupted at the stadium where peacekeepers and Afghans were playing a goodwill soccer match. Afghan police fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd that was pushing to get in.

Not all sporting events between international forces and Afghans have ended violently, however.

This week, British and other members of the international peacekeeping force played a cricket match with an Afghan team -- complete with cucumber triangle sandwiches, scones and tea. The Afghans were leading when rain ended the match.