Soon after the Taliban seized power by force, concerns about Afghan female athletes began to grow. On Monday, the first step towards their safety was taken. FIFPro, the World Women’s Professional Football Association, which has also strongly called for the departure of the Afghan women players, confirmed the evacuation of a group to Australia, but without giving specific numbers.
“We are grateful to the Australian government for the massive evacuation of female footballers and female athletes from Afghanistan,” Fifbro said in a statement. “These young women were in a dangerous position as athletes and activists, and on behalf of their peers around the world, we thank the international community for their help.”
Khaleda Popal, a former captain of the Afghan women’s soccer team who now lives in Denmark, hailed the evacuation as an important step. “The female footballers have shown themselves to be brave and strong in a time of crisis and we hope that they will have a better life outside Afghanistan,” she said.
DW has been in contact with the member of the women’s national soccer team, who spoke anonymously in the basement of his home shortly after the Taliban came to power. The young woman confirmed that she and her family were among those who were expelled from the country. “I don’t want to lose my life for this unacceptable government,” she told DW. “I want to live and I want to go back to do something for my country, my people, my women.” Now she will have the chance. “This country needs its youth, and above all, it needs educated women who are willing to do something for their country,” he affirmed with complete conviction.
The evacuation was the result of the efforts of prominent athletes, including Bhopal. Swimmer Nikki Dryden, who has competed in two Olympics for Canada, worked with an Australian lawyer to fill out visa applications for the athletes, including two Afghan Paralympians.
According to Australian ABC television reports, refugee lawyers have also hired former Australian football captain Craig Foster, who has lobbied Australian government officials.
Fifibro thanked Foster and Dryden, among others, for their efforts and urged the international community to provide players with the help they need in their new lives. “There are still many athletes at risk in Afghanistan and everything must be done to support them,” the organization added.
This text was adapted from the English language by Calle Kops.
GT (AFP, Reuters)
“Internet nerd. Avid student. Zombie guru. Tv enthusiast. Coffee advocate. Social media expert. Music geek. Professional food maven. Thinker. Troublemaker.”