The Taliban really like stadiums. They are their favorite gallows for killing dangerous people in cold blood, the offenders of some unspeakable guilt and the rebels. Those that the regmie deems such, of course. Sport and football are a threat to a religious army devoted to Sharia law. Imagine if women pretend to play with a ball. So what happened twenty years ago has happened again in these weeks. The Taliban who returned to command in Kabul have targeted sportsmen and women in particular, considering them an unacceptable symbol of freedom and emancipation. In the chaos following the advance of the Taliban religious army, the Afghan footballers luckily found a point of reference in Khalida popal.
The rebel soccer player
Khalida is the girl, the woman, who with her courage challenged and challenges the authority of the Taliban. At the time of their first reign, she had been forced into exile, but then returned to Kabul, after their expulsion, organizing a team with her friends – initially hosted at the NATO base – around which the women’s national team was born. of Afghanistan. “The Taliban and those who supported them saw us and told us that a woman who plays is immoral, it is an insult to sport”, she often said, as well as the insults and acts of violence she was a victim of together with her companions. . Precisely because of the death threats Khalida Popal had to flee from Kabul again, emigrating to India, then to Norway and Denmark, which finally welcomed her and where she was also hired by a team for a period. That’s where she graduated in marketing, founded “Girl Power”, An organization that promotes sport among female minorities, and with the Hummel brand has designed the first soccer jersey with hijab, making it available to its national team.
The Taliban hell
The footballers who risked being trapped in the Taliban hell therefore found her a guide, together with the captain of the Afghan national team, Farkhunda Muhtaj, who lives in Canada, and Fifpro, the world football union. The first step was to disappear, unsubscribe from social networks, destroy shoes and uniforms and then lose track, hiding from the militiamen. In the last weeks of August, the girls of the senior national team managed to leave the country thanks to the Australian government, very sensitive to the problem of Afghan refugees, which provided a military plane and humanitarian visas. This escape route should also have been used by the youngest members of the junior national team. But the bloody attack on Kabul airport on August 26 made their transfer impossible. Many girls were still without passports. Thus began their odyssey and that of their families fleeing the Taliban, moving overnight from one shelter to another to escape the checkpoints and the controls of the new occupants.
To help them they have also started to move in the US. Robert McCreary, a former Congressional chief of staff and White House official under President George W. Bush who worked with special forces in Afghanistan, launched Operation Soccer Balls. “They are just incredible girls who should play in the backyard, with their friends, and here they are in a bad situation just because they play football – he had declared in recent days – We must do everything possible to protect them and to bring them into a situation safety”. At the same time Qatar had offered to host them in a structure created in anticipation of the 2022 World Cup, as already happens for thousands of Afghan exiles, but it was not possible to organize the transfer.
The flight to Pakistan
In recent days, however, the NGO Football for Peace, based in Great Britain, and the Pakistani Football Association have managed to find a channel of communication with a less radical part of the Taliban world and to create a sort of medical cordon. The girls and their families, 115 people in all, thus gradually approached Pakistan, while the government of Islamabad arranged visas for everyone. Finally, on the evening of September 14, the whole group crossed the border reaching the town of Torkham, welcomed by an official of the Pakistani Football Federation, Nouman Nadeem. Pakistani Minister of Information, Fawad Chaudhry, broke the news of the exodus via Twitter, reassuring the world of football and beyond: “We welcome the women’s football team from Afghanistan, it arrived at the Torkham border from Afghanistan, the players were in possession of a valid Afghan passport and a Pakistani visa ».