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Hithadhoo: Five Afghanistan players and three officials including captain Haroon Fakhrudin and coach Mohammad Kargar were injured in a traffic accident following Saturday’s goalless draw with Laos at the AFC Challenge Cup, according to head of delegation Sayed Ali Kazemi.

The goalless draw saw SAFF champions Afghanistan qualify for the semi-finals of the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time after securing a second place finish in Group B behind the Philippines.

But shortly after leaving Hithadhoo Stadium, the vehicle convoy taking the team to a ferry for a transfer to their hotel was involved in a traffic accident with Fakhrudin and fellow players Faisal Sakhizada, Mustafa Azadzoy, Belal Arezou and Ahmad Hatifi as well as coach Kargar, head of delegation Kazemi and team manager Mohammad Farid Yasin all suffering minor injuries.

Midfielder Azadzoy was the only player kept in hospital overnight, and Afghanistan are set to return to Male on Sunday ahead of Tuesday’s semi-final with Palestine.

But Kazemi has confirmed all five players are set to miss the semi-final at the National Stadium, although Fakhrudin, Sakhizada and Arezou could play in Friday’s final should Afghanistan beat 2012 semi-finalists Palestine.

Azadzoy is expected to need at least three weeks to recover, while Hatifi will be sidelined for around two weeks after also being injured during Saturday’s draw with Laos.

“Some of the players need three days and some of the players need one week. If we reach the final maybe some of the players can play, but we do not know,” said Kazemi.

“All the players are in shock and they are not normal today, but hopefully they will all be OK for Tuesday.”




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