New freedom, fresh hope replace old hates after Kabul’s liberation from Taliban rule

first_imgStudied Change: Women attend a class at Kabul University after a five-year ban under the TalibanThe capacious science lecture hall in Kabul University has of late seen an effort to cover the scars of wars. Blobs of cement have been slapped over walls punctured by gunfire. Broken window panes have,Studied Change: Women attend a class at Kabul University after a five-year ban under the TalibanThe capacious science lecture hall in Kabul University has of late seen an effort to cover the scars of wars. Blobs of cement have been slapped over walls punctured by gunfire. Broken window panes have been replaced. Only the rickety doors still bear signs of the strife that had engulfed Afghanistan’s crucible of learning.But it is the presence of 60-odd women students in the class, their faces uncovered, who personify the startling changes that have transformed the tormented country in recent months. Banned from attending university, they had borne the brunt of the Taliban’s repressive rule and were forced to wear shapeless burqas.Now they are back in classes, hair covered with colourful scarves and sporting fashionable footwear, including the thickest of platform heels. They still sit separated from male students and lower their eyes when spoken to. But they titter over the bearded professor’s light jab on a mathematical formula he had just scribbled on the giant board.A demure Mursal Abdul Jabbar, 22, is all concentration. Outside the hall, she says, “For five years I had to miss classes because of the ban. I had almost given up hope of ever studying again. Now I can pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.” Her classmate and friend Leeda Din Mohammed, her hair covered with a lacy white scarf, is still angry with the Talibs. “What they wanted us to do was 100 per cent opposite to what Islam preached. We hope they never return.”advertisementUS troops confer with an Afghan soldier at Bagram air baseTill recently such talk would have been blasphemous and invited public caning. But just eight months after Kabul was liberated from Taliban rule, new freedom and fresh hope have replaced old hates and nagging fears. It is a rebirth of extraordinary proportions. Till recently, the Afghan capital looked like Beirut during the years of civil war-flattened and listless. Now it is throbbing with a new vitality.It can be seen at the Shahzada Market where once-drooping shops are now laden with fresh vegetables and giant melons. Where Amale Hamiuddin, 25, has just returned from Pakistan, his refuge for the past 12 years, and now exchanges giant wads of Afghanis stacked on a shoeshine box for dollars.It is visible with the zest with which Zahir Shah, a 30-year-old carpenter, shaves the wood of pine logs to fashion them into doors and windows. He says business is so good he doesn’t go home for days to be able to meet the orders that pour in every day.The signs of renewal are everywhere. The football stadium, which the Talibs had used for meting out public punishment, including execution, still resounds with screams. But only for the friendly soccer matches between the local clubs. Dish antennae that were banned have sprouted a top most Kabul houses and its residents can choose between a bewildering array of 90 channels, including those for music.Beneath the veneer of normality though, there are violent crosscurrents that threaten the fragile revolution. There are tussles between the centre and the provinces, the moderates and the purists, the emigres and the residents.Fridays are no longer solemn holidays when everyone woke to the wailing chorus of muezzins and headed for the mosque. Now most laze at home and watch Hindi movies. “Kabul has risen from the graveyard that the Taliban had made it into,” says 17-year-old Mohammed Idris, who models his hairstyle after Indian filmstar Salman Khan.On working days, the streets are clogged with people. “Kabul’s traffic jams are now worse than those in Delhi or Mumbai,” observes Younis Quanooni, Afghanistan’s powerful minister for education. Outside his office, armed guards keep the crowd of unemployed teachers seeking appointments with officials at bay.For Quanooni, however, the most dramatic change in Kabul is the “absence of rocket attacks and people arming themselves with guns”. He adds with a smile, “The real mullahs are back in the mosques. The fake ones have fled.”More than any other city, Kabul is the nerve centre for the resurrection that is sweeping through Afghanistan. Of the 15 lakh Afghan refugees who had flocked backed to their country after the fall of the Taliban, six lakh-or 43 per cent of them-poured into Kabul.Revival Signs: A damaged school being repaired in KabulUNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers calls it “people voting for the new government with their feet”. It has transformed the sprawling tub-shaped valley into a cauldron of myriad aspirations, lifestyles, ethnicities and ideologies which are both invigorating and intimidating.Beneath the veneer of normality, though, there are violent crosscurrents that threaten the stability. There is a struggle for supremacy between the newly installed transitional Government headed by President Hamid Karzai and the old warlords who are unwilling to give up their hold over key provinces.advertisementBetween the Pashtoon majority and the handful of ethnic minorities that have gained dominance in the new dispensation. There are tussles for jobs between the new emigres and the old residents. Between the new religious moderates and the old purists who recently staged a comeback by banning the screening of Hindi movies on national television. Then there are those who want the Americans to stay and others who want them booted out promptly.Pakistan is trying to stir disgruntled warlords in a bid to make fresh inroads. But it is an uphill task.Afghanistan is at a dangerous cross-roads again. A wrong turn could easily spell anarchy. The tension is palpable in the Presidential Palace, which resembles a medieval English castle with its turrets and rounded stone walls. The ageing King Zahir Shah, who ruled for 40 years before being deposed in a bloodless coup in 1973, returned in April from exile and now occupies a portion of his former palace.Shah has made it known that he is back as an ordinary citizen and has no intentions of reviving the monarchy. But already there are whispers of palace intrigues among the ambitious younger royalty to regain political power.A stone’s throw from the King’s quarters is the office of Karzai, the suave but beleaguered President. Wearing his trademark green-striped Uzbek robe, the balding Karzai is easily among the best dressed leaders of the world. But in the rough and tumble of Afghan politics, his urbanity may be a drawback. Though elected with a resounding majority at the Loya Jirga or meeting of the traditional council of tribal leaders in June, Karzai has trouble asserting authority over most of the provinces.Karimullah, 18, a mujahid, tries his hand at farming in GardezThe President vehemently denies western media criticism that he has been reduced to being the “mayor of Kabul” (see interview) but it is apparent that he is under siege. With the threat to his life increasing following the recent assassination of the powerful Jalalabad warlord Haji Qadeer, Karzai was forced to entrust his security to the US armed forces.Now unsmiling, heavily armed Marines surround him wherever he goes, adding to the image of his growing isolation. Outside, equally fierce looking soldiers from the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) patrol the streets of Kabul to keep the peace.Despite them, a powerful bomb exploded in the market on September 5 killing 30 people. Simultaneously, Karzai escaped an assassination attempt at Kandahar. A prominent Pashtoon leader complains, “The problem is that Karzai is soft and makes too many concessions.”It is already beginning to tell. In neighbouring Lowgar province, dominated by Pashtoons, the tribe to which Karzai belongs, his nominee for governor, Munshi Majid, faces stif f resistance from the local warlord, Fazlullah Mujadedi.advertisementEmbattled: A heavily guarded Delili, governor of Paktia, has his hands full tackling the maverick Pakistan-backed warlord, ZadranWhen Munshi Majid went to take charge, Mujadedi, brandishing his Kalashnikov, reportedly told him, “If you occupy that post, this gun will be up your butt.” While Karzai is yet to sort out Mujadedi, another of his governors for Paktia province, Raz Mohammed Delili, faces a revolt from the maverick warlord Pacha Khan Zadran.The swarthy Zadran, a Pashtoon, had ironically been propped up by the Americans to harass the Taliban in the southern provinces during the recent war. Upset that he wasn’t made the governor, Zadran defiantly questions Karzai’s legitimacy and has even launched rocket attacks on Gardez, the dusty capital of Paktia, killing 38 civilians since April. Delili is now surrounded by loyal guards armed with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers who accompany him wherever he goes. Since the province borders Pakistan, Delili accuses Zadran of being backed by the ISI.Indeed, Pakistan is trying to whip up disgruntled warlords in a bid to make fresh inroads into Afghanistan. Most Afghans resent Pakistan for nurturing Al-Qaida and bringing ruin to Afghanistan. Happy with the unexpected turn of events, India has started cultivating powerful Pashtoon leaders to expand the fair degree of clout it already enjoys in Karzai’s Government.The need is to reconstruct the country on an emergency footing but aid has so far only trickled in.Last fortnight, Indian Ambassador Vivek Katju set out by road to distant Paktika province where he was greeted with a 21-gun salute. The startled Indian delegation mistook it for an attack. Karzai’s main worry is the growing lawlessness in Afghanistan.In Lowgar province, Haji Badam, 45, who shifted to his ancestral house with his wife and 10 children from Pakistan after living there as a refugee for 22 years, already doubts the wisdom of his move. He has a battered Toyota Landcruiser in which he ferries passengers from his village to the capital, Pol-e-alam.But Badam now lives in constant fear of highway robbers after they killed a close relative of his. He plans to head back to Pakistan if things don’t improve. Worried about rising crime, Karzai now plans to request the multinational ISAF to guard provincial capitals as well. Businessmen are sore for other reasons.In Gardez, Azizullah Amanullah, a dealer in used cars, looks like an Arab sheikh with his fleet of gleaming white Toyotas. But he is glum because business is down. Under the Taliban, he says, he paid a flat rate of 20 million afghanis (roughly $500 or Rs 24,000) as tax for importing a car via distant Herat. Now he says, “Every local commander thinks he is a king and demands tax.” So he has to cough up 50 million afghanis to various warlords. It means he has to raise the price of his cars, pushing them beyond the reach of most buyers.Barring a token allegiance to Karzai, the major warlords operate independent of him. In the resource-rich Herat province, Governor Ismail Khan’s demeanour is almost presidential. The irascible Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose troops control the Balkh region, is a law unto himself.He continues to fly his own flag and print his own currency. In the high mountains of the Badakshan region, Burhanuddin Rabbani’s writ holds sway. In the verdant Panjshir valley, the forces of the legendary Ahmed Shah Masood now headed by Marshal Mohammed Fahim, Karzai’s defence minister, rule. Karzai has no independent base and US support alone is the source of his power.New Games: Once used for punishments, Kabul Stadium now hosts soccer matchesFortunately for him, with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar still at large, the US and its allies retain a sizeable military presence in Afghanistan. The joke doing the rounds in Kabul is that Karzai had the two spirited away to a safe hideout to ensure that America stayed. The chances of the Taliban regrouping are slim. Apart from the enormous resentment among the local population against their excesses, the US bombing effectively destroyed their firepower. But the threat remains.America still appears serious in wiping out the remaining Al-Qaida and Taliban troops. Around 5,000 US troops are stationed at Bagram air base, 45 km from Kabul, along with a multinational force. An equal number of US forces are stationed at Kandahar. Every other minute, menacing-looking Apache Longbow choppers lift off on a mission against Al-Qaida forces in the vast mountains of the south.Colonel Roger King, spokesperson for the US armed forces, argues, “Our success is not based on finding specific individuals. It should be judged by the absence of largescale terrorist attacks since September 11 and the fact that apart from having a friendly Government in Afghanistan we now have the terrorists on the run.”For Karzai though, disgruntled warlords are only one of his many problems. In their misguided zeal of taking Afghanistan back to the idyllic age of the Prophet, the Taliban perpetuated the purges that characterised Pol Pot’s rule over Cambodia. They turned their back on modernity, drove out intellectuals and professionals and destroyed the country’s economic infrastructure. To get out of the morass, Karzai has brought in some of Afghanistan’s most talented professionals. Among them is Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, the governor of Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank. Ahady, a poised Pathan in a pin-striped suit with doctorates in political science and finance from prestigious American universities, was aghast at the state of Kabul’s banking system. When he took charge in March, there were only three computers in operation. The electronic banking machine system he got installed collapsed within a day and technicians had to be flown in from Belgium to repair it.New Dreams: Though the economy has been shattered, many in Kabul hope that the reconstruction will create jobsAhady discovered that afghanis, the official currency, continued to be printed at a press in Switzerland by the erstwhile government in exile headed by Rabbani. Dostum printed another set in Russia. Over the years, the afghani had become so devalued that people carried notes in gunny sacks for the smallest transaction.Estimates are there are 14 trillion afghanis in circulation. Ahady is now getting fresh currency printed at a German press. The new afghani would be equivalent to 40,000 old afghanis (or about $1), considerably reducing the need to carry wads of notes to the market.Equally pressing is the need to begin reconstructing the country on an emergency footing. Although the coalition against terrorism headed by the US had committed $4.5 billion in aid to Afghanistan for this year, so far they have given only $850 million. The statistics of want are staggering.There is a 25 per cent shortfall in schools for the estimated three million students. Of the existing 5,063 schools, at least 70 per cent need urgent repair. An example is the Loghamani High School in Chariker village near Kabul which is housed in a row of tents and broken down thatched huts. The sun beats mercilessly down on the 1,200 students. A turret of a destroyed tank lies nearby and is a reminder of the troubled past.Years of drought and fighting have also seen Afghanistan’s agricultural production plunge below subsistence levels. The fertile Shomali valley was till recently the frontline between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance forces. Last year, we put ourselves at unnecessary risk by walking through minefields to witness a firefight at close quarters between the two forces.Returning to the scene of the battlefield last week, we found the houses that the soldiers had used as firings posts abandoned. But there are signs of revival. This summer, farmer Abdul Wassi, 25, planted his first crop of beans and corn in five years. His lush green fields are an island in a sea of brown wastelands. They are a symbol of Afghanistan’s fragile revival.- Photographs by Dilip Banerjeelast_img read more

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Behind Carmelo and Amare the Knicks Beat Heat Avoid

Carmelo Anthony had 41 points.It had been a long time since New York Knicks fans could celebrate a playoff victory. They had an NBA postseason record of 13 straight losses spanning 11 years. So, excuse them for dropping streamers from the rafters of Madison Square Garden last night after they extended their first-round series against the Miami Heat.The 89-87 victory likely only postponed the inevitable; Miami still leads the series 3-1 and looks to close out the Knicks at home on Wednesday. But, for New York, it did not matter.“A great win for us, for our fans to finally get over that hump of those consecutive games that we lost. . . over those years in the playoffs,” said forward Amare Stoudemire, who returned after missing a game because of that much-talked-about left hand he cut after Game 2. He was a factor, too, with 20 points and 10 rebounds.But it was all-star Carmelo Anthony who was the catalyst, scoring 41 points in a rousing performance. Anthony made a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 54.5 seconds left. Still, it took a Dwyane Wade missed three-pointer as time expired to give NY some playoff life.LeBron James scored 27 for the Heat, including some spectacular late-game baskets, and Wade added 22.The Knicks’ win was marred by the gruesome injury to starting guard Baron Davis, who dislocated his right knee while running a fast break. He is out for the remainder of the playoffs. read more

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Ohio State baseball drops final two games of Snowbird Classic

OSU junior left-hander Tanner Tully (16) delivers a pitch against Coastal Carolina on Feb. 27. OSU won 6-4.Credit: Courtesy of OSUThe trip to Port Charlotte, Florida, ended up being a bummer for the Buckeyes after a promising start, as the Ohio State Baseball team dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season.OSU fell to the Illinois State Redbirds 5-4 on Saturday and the Boston College Eagles 6-2 on Sunday, dropping its record to 6-4-1. The losses came after the Scarlet and Gray started the weekend’s action on the right foot, defeating Seton Hall 9-3 behind another offensive explosion from redshirt junior right fielder Jacob Bosiokovic.  Dropping a close one to the RedbirdsOSU opened Saturday’s game against Illinois State with one of its top pitchers, redshirt sophomore Adam Niemeyer, on the hill. Niemeyer, however, got off to a shaky start, allowing three runs in the first two innings. The righty would get back to his normal self over the rest of his six innings of work, but the 3-0 hole the Buckeyes fell into would prove to be tough to climb out of. The Buckeyes battled back, tying the game in the bottom of the fifth inning behind junior catcher Jalen Washington’s double down the right-field line to score junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson. OSU fell behind again in the seventh, but the deficit was quickly erased by junior center fielder Troy Montgomery’s solo home run to tie the game at 4-4. The homer was Montgomery’s third of the season, which is second most on the team. But the Redbirds would not be denied their first win of the Snowbird Classic, as OSU contributed to its own demise allowing the game-winning run in the top of the ninth on a fielding error by senior second baseman Nick Sergakis. OSU’s co-captain also had his season-long nine-game hitting streak snapped following an 0-for-4 day at the plate. On the other hand, Washington, OSU’s other co-captain, had a career-best day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with two RBIs in the loss. Niemeyer received a no-decision in the game and freshman pitcher Ryan Feltner (0-1) was tagged with the loss for his 2.2 innings of work. Redshirt junior Jack Landwehr (1-1) picked up the win for Illinois State, which improved to 3-6. Dominated by Boston CollegeIn the final game of the three-game trip to the Sunshine State, the Buckeyes’ typically powerful offense was outmatched by Eagles senior starter Jesse Adams and the Boston College pitching staff. OSU’s bats were silenced, only mustering two hits all game against the Eagles and providing little run support for senior starter John Havird.Boston College’s offense was led by junior center fielder Michael Strem, who knocked in the Eagles’ first run as part of his 2-for-4, two-RBI day. Senior infielder Jake Palomaki provided the insurance runs for the Eagles with his sixth-inning double that plated two. The win moved Boston College’s record to 9-1 as Adams (2-0) picked up the win for his six innings of scoreless baseball. The Buckeyes fell to 6-4-1, and Havird was hit with his first loss and decision of the year. OSU now is set to return to Columbus to prepare for its four-game series with UNLV in Las Vegas starting on Friday and ending four days later on March 15. After that, the Buckeyes will gear up for their home-opening series against Hofstra from March 18 to 20. read more

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Harry Wilson admits Gareth Bale is still the freekick expert

first_imgHarry Wilson who is gradually building a reputation as a dead-ball specialist netted a superb strike to put his side ahead of Ireland on Tuesday’s round of the UEFA Nations league.Bale, though injured tweeted in appreciation of his country’s win in Dublin, but the on-loan Liverpool midfielder accepts he will be stepping down for the Madrid superstar as soon as he is up and running.‘I’ll be putting my name forward but I think he (Bale) is still at the front of the queue – and rightly so,’ Wilson said during the post-match interview.‘When Gareth is here we stand back and watch him take them because he is that good.’‘But it is important to have a couple of players good on dead balls. It is good to have that option.’Players who made it public that they weren’t happy in their club Jozef Fabian – September 12, 2019 Football is about so much more than what happens on the pitch.The 21-year-old is a winger and plays for Championship side Derby County, on loan from Premier League side Liverpool. He also netted a spectacular goal last month to give his side victory at Old Trafford during their Carabao cup campaign.The Welsh manager and former Manchester United player, Ryan Giggs also made some funny comments upon naming his squad to face Ireland. He said he was considering slamming a fine on Wilson for scoring against his beloved United.‘He hasn’t got round to it yet, and I’m hoping that goal will make him forget about it.’ Wilson said via Sky Sports.‘I don’t know (which was the best) but I enjoyed them both. When you score for your country, no matter what type of goal it is, then its special. But then as a Liverpool fan to score at Old Trafford was also special. They are both there.’last_img read more

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Jorginho Chelsea will achieve a lot under Sarri

first_imgChelsea midfielder Jorginho has seen enough quality in his team to believe they can achieve a lot under Maurizio Sarri’ and claimed it is ‘impossible not to love’ playing for the club.Jorginho has played a key role in helping Chelsea maintain an unbeaten run in the League since his move from Napoli. And he recently opened up on what it feels like playing for Sarri.“Maurizio Sarri is great. It’s great playing with him,” the Italy midfielder told Football Italia via Metro.“He is someone who gives you the opportunity to play with the ball and do what all footballers love to do. We have fun with the coach and that means we can play to a much higher level.“Obviously, you can always improve and you have to want to improve, which is something we are all striving towards here.“It is a privilege to come here and to play alongside them. I think anyone who plays at Chelsea is a big name player.Sacchi explains Sarri, Conte, and Ancelotti Manuel R. Medina – September 14, 2019 Arrigo Sacchi talked about how Sarri has a tougher time at Juventus than Conte at Inter; while Ancelotti’s “blood is boiling” at Napoli.Arrigo Sacchi…“They are also great people. I am loving it here. I love the club, I love the city. It would be impossible not to love it here.“My role is to give rhythm to our play. To help both the attackers and the defenders and bring a sense of balance to how we play.“A team like Chelsea has to want to win every game they play in. No matter what competition we are playing in, we want to win every game.“If we aim to do this, there are no limits to what we can achieve and I hope to have a couple of medals at the end of the season.“I love London. It is a wonderful city. There is so much to see and do — the only problem is it is a little colder than I am used to, but that’s life!“Andrea Pirlo and Xavi were the players that I try and model my game on. They were next level.”last_img read more

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Pochettino hails Spurs heroes after 31 win

first_imgTottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino heaped praise on his players following today’s 3-1 win over Leicester City.Davinson Sanchez netted an early opener for Spurs after being set-up by Christian Eriksen with the Danish playmaker later getting on the scoresheet himself in the 33rd-minute of the match.Son Heung-min then scored a stoppage-time third goal after Jaime Vardy had briefly put Leicester back into contention.The 3-1 win moves Spurs back to within five points of leaders Manchester City in third-place in the Premier League.“It’s a good time with the circumstances [to win]. I think my players are heroes. I repeat because our effort was amazing,” said Pochettino, according to Sky Sports.“Again we are there, we are fighting and showing great character. Like this afternoon it maybe wasn’t our best performance, and it’s impossible during 10 minutes to be at the same level, but we’re still in it.”The Argentine coach insists Son was unfairly booked as he didn’t dive in the area from Harry Maguire’s challenge.He added: “It wasn’t simulation first of all. It was a little bit unlucky.“During the game the referee was good but we didn’t have luck in that situation because that was a clear penalty.“Son, when he scored the third goal, he showed how he is with his character, personality and capacity to run more than 90 minutes.Harry Maguire, Manchester UnitedLiverpool legend Nicol slams Harry Maguire’s Man United form Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Steve Nicol believes Harry Maguire has made some “horrendous mistakes” recently, and has failed to find his best form since joining Manchester United.“It was a fantastic effort from him, great quality finishing and I was so happy for him because it was the key moment to feel a big relief after the whole game.”Pochettino also provided an update on Eriksen’s future at Spurs following another superb performance today.“We’ve spoken a lot about that, now we need to keep going, for him to continue performing in his best and of course I told you before he’s such an important player for us,” He added on Football London.“We’ll see what happens. I think I’ve used a few metaphors in the past about Christian, remember related with my family and my dog.“He needs to feel freedom to take his decisions. I think keeping going, so happy with him and we’ll see what happens in the end.”Spurs will next host German giants Borussia Dortmund at Wembley for the first leg of their last-16 Champions League clash.Another huge three points in the bag! 💪#COYS pic.twitter.com/oSBjLa9gL5— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 10, 2019last_img read more

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Lucas Paqueta Kakas my idol

first_imgAC Milan new signing Lucas Paqueta revealed his desire to follow in his “idol” Kaka’s footsteps during his own playing careerDespite reported interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona, Paqueta chose to join Milan for a reported €35m fee from Brazilian side Flamengo.The 21-year-old midfielder is regarded as one of most exciting talents in South American football and has been compared to Milan legend and fellow Brazilian Kaka.Now Paqueta, who will officially join Milan on January 1 when the transfer window opens, revealed his admiration for Kaka.“Kaka’s my idol,” said Paqueta, according to Football-Italia.“He had a brilliant career and it’s clear that I’d like to follow in his footsteps, but I also want to tell my own story at Milan.Maurizio Sarri, JuventusMaurizio Sarri satisfied despite Juventus’ draw at Fiorentina Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Maurizio Sarri was satisfied with Juventus’ performance on Saturday afternoon after finishing a tough game at Fiorentina 0-0.“I’d like to take his best traits did and do the best I can. I’ve already been to Milan and everything’s been very calm so far.“It was a period of adaptation, also for my family. I hope to adapt as quickly as possible when I go back to Milan and help the team on the field.”Kaka himself was a former midfielder who managed 104 goals and 65 assists in 307 appearances for Milan across all competitions.The ex-Brazil international won the Serie A, Champions League, Club World Cup and Italian Super Cup at the San Siro.The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner also had spells with Sao Paulo, Real Madrid and Orlando City before retiring in 2017.last_img read more

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