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A month after the Taliban took power in Kabul, Afghanistan’s junior women’s football team sought refuge in Pakistan before moving to another state within a month. About thirty others, still in Afghanistan, hope to be able to leave the country soon because they fear for their safety.
The Afghan footballers on the junior team are safe. Pakistani authorities announced on Wednesday (September 15th) that the Afghanistan junior women’s football team had arrived in Pakistan, a month after the Taliban took power in Kabul.
The players had tried to flee the country but found themselves stranded after the deadly attack on August 26 near Kabul airport, a source close to the team told AFP.
Leave the country
In total, more than 75 people (players, coaches, families) crossed the border with Pakistan on Tuesday before reaching the city of Lahore where they were greeted with garlands of flowers.
They will stay in Pakistan for a month before moving to another country. About thirty others, still in Afghanistan, hope to be able to leave soon.
The players, members of the Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 national team, crossed the border in burqas, before opting for a simple headscarf once on Pakistani soil, a Sardar Naveed Haider, of the London-based NGO Football for Peace.
The latter explained that he had received an evacuation request from another NGO and sent it to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, who gave his agreement to welcome the young footballers in Pakistan.
“We welcome the Afghan women’s football team,” Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter on Wednesday.
“The players were in possession of a valid Afghan passport, a Pakistani visa and were received by Nouman Nadeem,” of the Pakistan Football Federation, he added.
A dangerous situation
This evacuation is in addition to that, at the end of August, of the players of the national football team and their families, now refugees in Australia.
The International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) had, at the time, estimated that the evacuated Afghan players were “in a dangerous situation” and that “many athletes” were still in danger.
Since their return to power in Afghanistan on August 15, the Taliban have suggested that women could play sports but under certain strict conditions, including those of not being seen by the public. However, no official decision has yet been announced.
When it came to power for the first time between 1996 and 2001, the Islamist movement banned women from playing sports or attending matches.
Several tens of thousands of Afghans have fled the country since the return to power of the Islamist movement for fear of reprisals or repression.