Afghan women’s soccer team returns to the pitch in Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Afghanistan’s women’s soccer team has returned to the field after its evacuation from the Taliban-led country last year, helped by A-League team the Melbourne Victory.
The Victory are providing their support to the members of the team who relocated to Melbourne following the fall of the Afghan government in August, allowing the Taliban to take back control of the country after 20 years and again place women’s sports in jeopardy.
The team is looking to compete in Victoria’s senior women’s competition this year and held its first training session in Melbourne on Saturday.
“All the girls are excited about playing together again,” team captain and goalkeeper Fatema, who uses only one name, told Australian Associated Press.
“We wanted to stay together as a team to show that the Taliban can take away our country, but not our right to play the sport we love and will ask for everyone’s support so that we can continue our international careers.”
The team will play under Victory’s banner this year, with full support of the club’s football operations.
Former Australia soccer captain and refugee advocate Craig Foster said ensuring the players could continue their careers after being forced to leave their homeland sent a powerful message.
“Many great people and organizations played a part in their courageous escape but as they take the field again, we are reminded that their international careers have been obliterated by the Taliban,” Foster said. “Football cannot allow this to happen.”
The Afghan team was created in 2007, played its first official international in 2010 against Nepal and won its first match 2-0 over Qatar in 2012.
The rise of the Taliban and the subsequent escape of the players also led to the team withdrawing from qualifying matches for this month’s Women’s Asian Cup in India, which doubles as a qualifier for next year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
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