The Afghanistan Women’s National Team

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Modern football is a funny thing. Players are brands. Coaches are heads of state. And a club in China is willing to spend $64 million on Oscar. As Dickens said, portending that Oscar transfer specifically… Best of Times. Worst of Times.

Last week, we spoke with Haley Carter, goalkeeping coach and assistant manager for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. Carter also happens to be a United States Naval Academy Graduate, two-time Iraq veteran, former NWSL goalkeeper for the Houston Dash, and, as she proudly points out, a mother and wife. While the conversation left us feeling even more inadequate than usual, the story she told was one that drove home our long standing belief that football is often the least important, most important part of life. Or as Haley put it so beautifully, “This little speck of optimism in a really chaotic world.”

After our interview, we produced a short digital video about the Afghanistan WNT, its history, the challenges players face, and the hope it provides for women across that nation. WATCH IT HERE.

As Haley says in the video, “The bottom line here is we’re talking life and death to be able to play this game.”

The team’s players are scattered around the globe with roughly a third coming from Afghanistan itself, a third coming from Europe and a third from North America. Despite what Haley called tremendous support from the Afghanistan Football Federation, funding for the team is tight, and they can rarely afford to get together for training camps. As a result, they rely heavily on funding from outside sources. The team has partnered with Soccer Without Borders in an effort to raise money. CLICK HERE for more on how you can help, and more on the team’s story. #Courage

English Premier League betting: Liverpool small favorite over Arsenal

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Based on their recent history, one relative certainty when Arsenal plays Liverpool is that they might hit the over.

Ahead of their match on Saturday, Liverpool is even-money at +105 for the win with Arsenal a +240 underdog and a draw listed at +255 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The English Premier League rivals, who are in a five-team race for three spots in next season’s Champions League, have combined for 13 goals in their past two matchups.

Arsenal, which is 15-5-5 (wins-draws-losses) in the Premiership, will be trying not to concede three points. Key playmaker Mesut Ozil (illness) may be something of a match-day decision for manager Arsene Wegner, and Ozil’s absence would affect Arsenal’s ability to create opportunities for striker Alexis Sanchez.

Liverpool, which is 14-7-5, is dealing with a varied list of injuries. Captain Jordan Henderson (foot) is out , while the status of defender Dejan Lovren (knee) and forward Daniel Sturridge (illness) seems shaky.

Saturday’s fixtures also feature a matchup of two teams drawing bettors’ attention for trending in opposite directions, with Manchester United a -425 favorite against +1100 underdog Bournemouth (with a draw listed at +500).

Manchester United, at 13-9-3, is only two points adrift of a coveted top-four spot. With 35-year-old Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring at an impressive rate, Man U has lost only one of its last 26 matches and has won its last six across all competitions.

They are 4-3-0 (wins-draws-losses) in their last seven matches at Old Trafford against mid-table teams such as Bournemouth, but totals bettors should know that they have scored three goals in only one of those matches.

A continued skein of wins would further lower Manchester United’s price on the top-four finish odds board at the sportsbooks. One of their central playmakers in the midfield, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, should be back from a leg injury, which would help with generating a more flowing attack.

Bournemouth, 7-5-14 in the league, has lost six of its last seven matches in all competitions and has been outscored 12-4 in their last four Premiership matches. The Cherries have also allowed a league-most 30 goals in 13 away matches.

Bournemouth are still four points ahead of the bottom three with 14 matches left, but need to win one soon.

17 trampled to death by stampeding crowd at Angola soccer stadium

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JOHANNESBURG — A crowd stampeded at a football stadium in Angola on Friday, leaving at least 17 people dead and dozens injured.

The accident happened in the northwestern town of Uige when hundreds of people rushed at one of the stadium gates, causing some to fall and be trampled underfoot, according to Angolan and Portuguese media.

Some of the dead were children who suffocated in the stampede, the Portuguese news agency Lusa said. Lusa and Angop, Angola’s state-run news agency, reported a death toll of 17.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (pictured above) expressed condolences to the families of the victims, and instructed officials to assist the injured and open an investigation, Angop reported.

Spectators had gone to the stadium to watch the inaugural game between home team Santa Rita de Cassia and Recreativo de Libolo in the national Girabola competition.