The future of football in Afghanistan has received a major boost after members of the Afghan and English football families met in Dubai and agreed to a development programme in the country.
Joined by colleagues from the British Embassy in Kabul, the British Council and FIFA, the workshop followed David Cameron's visit to Afghanistan in December when he was accompanied by English football ambassador Michael Owen.
The partnership will be realised by a comprehensive package of support that will touch on all aspects of Afghan football and includes a commitment by The FA, English Premier League and FIFA to support the Afghanistan Football Federation and Afghan Premier League and help develop and deliver a sustainable grassroots coach development strategy to meet the needs of coaches across the game.
Commenting on the news, Afghanistan Football Federation general secretary Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada said: "The future of football in Afghanistan has never been as exciting as it is today.
“This workshop saw a commitment to a two-year partnership by The FA, the Premier League, the British Council and British Embassy Kabul with the Afghanistan Football Federation and Afghan Premier League, supported by FIFA.
“Strong steps forward were taken in our discussions, which will provide opportunities for our football and our stakeholders, and bring the smiles back to the faces of the Afghan people by winning teams.”
During the workshop, it was also agreed that as part of the Premier Skills programme, Premier League clubs will work with 20-25 male and female Afghan grassroots coaches on an intensive three-phase programme which will eventually produce a core group of coach educators who will then be able to deliver training to greater numbers of new coaches across Afghanistan.
The Premier Skills programme includes an element to train Afghan referees, to be delivered by former and current top-flight English officials.
It was also agreed that The FA will offer two sponsored places on The FA International Licence course at St. Georges’ Park in September in the third year of The FA’s bursary programme for foreign coaches.
A knowledge-sharing visit to England by officials representing various parts of the game in Afghanistan will also take place.
The trip will involve meetings with Premier League and FA executives, knowledge-sharing workshops on areas where the Afghans have indicated they are keen to develop domestically, and visits to Wembley, St. George's Park and top-flight club stadiums, training grounds and academies.
The partnership was engendered by the British Prime Minister in recognition of the role that sport has to play as a force for good in what are challenging times for the country of Afghanistan.
Its national team already has a significant win under its belt with victory in the 2013 South Asian Championships, and recorded a 51-point rise in the FIFA rankings.
FA Head of International Relations, Jane Bateman said: "This workshop represented a promising start to a multi-stakeholder approach to developing football in Afghanistan.
“There is a great sense of momentum in Afghan football and the potential both to develop the game and touch on Afghan society through the initiatives we discussed is immense.
"The FA has a long history of sharing expertise and knowledge around the world, and the opportunity to make a difference to football in Afghanistan is a particularly exciting prospect.”
Meanwhile, Premier League Head of Public Affairs Tim Vine, added: "There is clearly an appetite from the Afghan football authorities to build on the hugely successful first two seasons of the Afghan Premier League.
“This workshop in Dubai has made it clear that there is a great deal we can offer the AFF and APL to assist them in achieving this.
"We are looking forward to training a significant number of coaches and referees, a core group of whom will be trained to be able to then deliver similar courses to other new coaches and referees across the country.
"Separately we have offered the AFF and APL executives our help in any other specific areas that they are keen to develop."