Mabbutt to coach Afghanistan side

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The Independent Online

The former England and Tottenham defender, Gary Mabbutt, is to team up with Lawrie McMenemy, the former Southampton and Northern Ireland coach, as a management team for the Afghanistan challenge match in Kabul in a fortnight.

The pair will take charge when the Afghanistan national side takes on the International Security Assistance Force in the Olympic Stadium – once the scene of Taliban executions – on 15 February.

Mabbutt, who has been on the Football Association's International Development Programme committee for five years and been involved in projects in countries including Russia and South Africa, discussed plans for the trip with the FA and Ministry of Defence yesterday.

He said: "I've had eight managerial offers in the last three years – three in the First Division, two in the Second and three in the Third – but this offer is the first I've accepted since I finished playing.

"I've had some very good offers, but if you want to be a top manager, you need to be the best and totally married to the game. I've got a three-year-old daughter and there's more important things in life than football, as going to Afghanistan is proving."

Mabbutt and McMenemy will fly to Kabul with the Royal Air Force on 12 February for the FA-backed four-day stay. The pair will decide which team to coach and then embark on training sessions before the match expected to attract a 40,000 crowd.

The Afghan team will be made up of players from the four major Kabul teams, while the ISAF side will be picked from the soldiers of the 17 nations in the peacekeeping force. Peter Jones, the referee in the 1999 FA Cup final, will officiate the match.

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