When John Morgan travelled to Afghanistan, the last thing that he expected to find among the ruins and used landmines was Kabul locals proudly displaying Chelsea colours, but he was in for quite a surprise.
On a recent visit to Afghanistan, some friends and myself decided to visit some of the serious war zone areas of Kabul — as you do. As we travelled further south, the damage that we encountered was progressively worse. At first it was merely shrapnel in walls and holes in roofs. Then we found many buildings with serious damage before every building we came across was in a mess and eventually pretty much everything was destroyed or at least no longer had any walls standing higher than about six feet.
People were beginning to move back into the area. Some had started renovating buildings, often putting mud brick walls around forty-foot shipping containers. In a moment of black humour, I was reminded of The Secret Policeman’s Ball with the Yorkshiremen trying to outdo each other with tales of their hardships: “Walls? You ‘ad walls? When I were a lad we had four posts and a piece of canvas.” “Canvas? You were lucky…”
Although the people we met in Kabul seemed relatively positive and upbeat amid their abject poverty, the overall mood was unremittingly gloomy. A rare flash of colour only occasionally broke the brown and grey of the dusty landscape. Here a brightly painted truck, fresh from coming over the Khyber Pass, and there a kid in a bright yellow shirt. On closer examination there was something written across the front of the garment. It appeared to say “AUTOGLASS”.
It was only the third footy shirt that I had seen in the country. Earlier I had spotted a kid wearing a shirt with “Sammer” on the back, but I could not remember who he plays for — Dortmund? — and one of the senior-ish guys at the Ministry of Finance regularly goes to work in a Real Madrid shirt. Now the Blues’ message is being spread in one of the most godforsaken places on Earth. Sadly, we had driven past before I had a chance to get a photograph of the kid in the Chelsea shirt.
I had already previously approached the club for some kit to donate to a school or orphanage in the Afghan capital. Our group spent a fortune with Emirates getting out here, so they should have been happy to foot the bill even if Ken Bates would not be. Unfortunately, Chelsea failed to come up with an answer before I came out. It looks as though I may have to come back soon anyway, so maybe next time.
So far the region appears to be a Manc-free zone — long may it last — but how the kid got hold of a Chelsea shirt remains a mystery. On the flight out I was jammy enough to be upgraded to first class. Tossing leftover caviar and Dom Perignon back to my managing director in business class may or may not have done my review prospects any good, but he is a Rottenham fan anyway.