Afghan female footballers reach Pakistan, Evade Taliban

Sarfaraz RizviWeb Editor

18th Sep, 2021. 12:21 pm

KARACHI: On Tuesday night, female footballers from Afghanistan and their families crossed the Torkham border into Pakistan after the government issued emergency humanitarian visas to evacuate them from their country following the Taliban takeover.

The Taliban were threatening footballers on the national junior girls team because of their participation in sports. They were supposed to travel to Qatar, where Afghan refugees are being housed at a facility for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but were stranded after a bomb blast at Kabul airport on August 26.

While the majority of the Afghan national women’s team flew out in the last week of August as part of an agreement with the Australian government, the youth team was unable to board flights due to a lack of passports and other documentation. They had been hiding since then in order to avoid the Taliban.

The decision to bring the 32 footballers — a total of 115 people, including their families — to Pakistan was made in collaboration with the government and the Pakistan Football Federation of Ashfaq Hussain Shah, which is not recognized by FIFA.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino visited Afghan refugees during his visit to Doha last week, but the global football body has been chastised for its failure to assist female footballers still in Afghanistan.

The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom reported last week that Prime Minister Imran Khan was more likely to allow the players to enter Pakistan if FIFA requested it.

“We launched these efforts a few weeks ago, and we’re extremely grateful to the government and PFF president Ashfaq Hussain Shah and vice president Aamir Dogar for facilitating us,” Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, a former member of Ashfaq’s PFF, told Dawn on Tuesday night.

The footballers will travel from Peshawar to Lahore, where they will stay at the PFF headquarters, which was taken over by the court-elected PFF of Ashfaq from the FIFA-appointed PFF Normalisation Committee, forcing FIFA to suspend Pakistan.

“We support humanity,” Ashfaq told Dawn on Tuesday evening. “When we found out about this, we immediately acted and did everything we could to get them to Pakistan as soon as possible.”

Because FIFA was not involved in the process, a PFF NC member told Dawn on Tuesday that the organization “had no knowledge of the matter.”


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