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Mabbutt's amazing mission

Posted on 7 February 2002  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Gary Mabbutt is gearing up for a historic and most poignant football match in Afghanistan.

The legendary Spurs defender and former Southampton boss Lawrie McMenemy have accepted invitations from the Football Association to play a pivotal role in the match in Kabul on February 15 - and our former captain fantastic will be taking a host of Spurs kit with him for the football-crazy locals.

'Mabbsy' and McMenemy will lead a team each when Kabul United (made up of the capital’s four leading clubs) take on a team representing the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in front of an expected 40,000 crowd in Kabul’s Olympic Stadium.

Now 40, Gary agreed to the trip after a meeting between the FA, the Ministry of Defence and Barclaycard officials to discuss the logistics of organising the game.

Speaking to the Official Spurs Website before flying out on February 11, Gary admitted he accepted the invitation 'without really having to think about it'.

"It's the first sporting event to take place since the Taliban regime left," explained Gary.

"The idea is to show that the country is returning to some sort of normality.

"I accepted the invitation without really having to think about it. It was only afterwards that my wife said to me 'you do realise there is still a war going on?'"

"It's funny, I've been offered eight managerial roles from clubs in the First, Second and Third Divisions but this is the first role I've accepted."

So was he going out there with any trepidation? "I had a meeting with the MOD and everything is being done to make sure everything is as safe as it can be, the route to the stadium, the stadium itself will be protected around the clock, they are doing everything they can.

"There is a risk in everything you do though whether it's driving the car, crossing the road or going out to Afghanistan."

Gary, who played over 600 times for us between 1982-1998, has also travelled to South Africa, Russia and Africa in his role within the FA's International Development Programme.

"We give seminars, hold forums and coach," explained Gary. "It's all about the FA using its knowledge of football to try to raise the standard of football.

"On this occasion we'll have a training session with both teams on the day before the match and then myself and Lawrie will take charge of a team each.

"Football is the most popular sport in Afghanistan and it's a case of using sport to unite a country that has been torn apart.

"It will be a historic occasion, signifying changes have taken place and, from our point of view, showing that the rest of the world cares."