PROFESSIONAL footballers global body Fifpro has successfully evacuated the 75 members of Afghanistan’s women’s teams and resettled them in Australia to prevent the prospect of them becoming
Several weeks ago, the radical Islamic group the Taliban, swept into power in Afghanistan after it captured the capital Kabul. With the government collapsing and the president taking flight, Afghanistan was once more in the hands of radical extremists, set to impose the strict Sharia code of conduct on the country.
Following the development, foreigners and all those who served the secular government took flight, rushing to the Kabul airport to catch flights out of the country. Certain to be in the firing line as the Taliban forbid women from participating in sports, Afghanistan’s female football teams were among those immediately flown out of the country.
A Fifpro spokesman said: “We are grateful to the Australian government for evacuating a large number of women footballers and athletes from Afghanistan. These young women, both as athletes and activists, have been in a position of danger and on behalf of their peers around the world we thank the international community for coming to their aid.”
Afghanistan’s female football team was created in 2007 in a country where women playing sport was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban. Players had been advised this month to delete social media posts and photographs of them with the team to help avoid reprisals since the US-backed Afghan government fell.
Former team captain Khalida Popal said: “The last few days have been extremely stressful but today we have achieved an important victory. The women footballers have been brave and strong in a moment of crisis and we hope they will have a better life outside Afghanistan.
“However, there is still much more work to do. Women’s football is a family and we must make sure everyone is safe.”
Ms Popal is among a team of Fifpro lawyers and advisers who have worked with authorities in six countries, including Australia, the US and UK, to get athletes and their families on to evacuation lists and flights to safety.
Fifpro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann added: “We are relieved that this group of footballers and athletes have been able to leave Afghanistan. It has been an incredibly complex process for everyone involved to secure their evacuation and our hearts go out to all the others who remain stranded in the country against their will.”