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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Afghan and Moroccan women unite for women’s soccer

Exiled Afghan women's soccer team joins Morocco's World Cup journey, advocating for Muslim women's inclusion in sports.

As the Women’s World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand, 32 national soccer teams will compete for glory on the field. However, amidst the excitement, there is an unofficial 33rd team present, one that carries a profound message about empowerment and inclusivity. The Afghanistan national women’s soccer team, evacuated to Australia after the Taliban took control in 2021, serves as a beacon of hope for Muslim women in sports. In a touching show of solidarity, the Afghan players recently visited Morocco’s training session, echoing the sentiment that Muslim women belong in the world of sports.

Exiled Players with a Powerful Message

Despite being far from home and officially unranked by FIFA, the eight members of the Afghan women’s soccer team, now based in Melbourne, Australia, refuse to be silenced. Their presence at Morocco’s training session underscores their mission to showcase the potential of Muslim women in sports. The Taliban’s ban on women participating in sports in Afghanistan led to the evacuation of these talented athletes, leaving their families behind but never forgetting the struggles of their fellow Afghan women.

Read More: The Qatar World Cup: Soccer upsets, politics, and sensitive situations

Case for Recognition by FIFA

The exiled Afghan players call on FIFA to recognize their team officially, enabling them to compete internationally and serve as the voice for their counterparts back home. By acknowledging the Afghan women’s team, FIFA can amplify their message of empowerment and demonstrate the universal value of sports for all, regardless of gender, religion, or nationality.

Morocco’s Historic Step Forward

In the realm of women’s soccer, Morocco is making history as the first Arab nation to qualify for the Women’s World Cup. Despite facing financial and social challenges, Morocco has broken barriers and set attendance records by hosting the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The nation’s two divisions of professional women’s soccer signal a promising future for the sport’s development in the Middle East and North Africa.

Symbol of Unity

The Afghan women’s team showcased their resilience and passion for the sport through the inaugural Hope Cup, playing against Football Empowerment—a team representing Melbourne’s refugee communities. The match became a celebration of football’s true essence, emphasizing unity, diversity, and the desire for international competition once more. The presence of former Afghan women’s team captain Khalida Popal, who helped facilitate the evacuation to Australia, added poignancy to the event.

Dreams of Representation and Inclusivity

For the Afghan players, the Women’s World Cup unfolding before them represents more than just a tournament; it symbolizes their dreams for a future Afghanistan women’s national soccer team. Despite the hardships they faced back home, they drew inspiration from European games and World Cups on television. Their presence at the live event serves as a reminder of the heights they aspire to reach, where their team will proudly represent their country on the world stage.

Read More: Iranian soccer’s curse: Politics

The story of the exiled Afghan women’s soccer team is a testament to the power of sport to transcend borders and ignite change. Their journey of resilience, hope, and determination embodies the spirit of inclusivity that should define modern sports. As the Women’s World Cup unfolds, let us stand with these courageous athletes, supporting their plea for recognition and representation, while advocating for a world where Muslim women and women from all walks of life can participate freely in sports. The impact of their message reaches beyond the soccer field, urging us all to break down barriers and foster a world where every voice is heard, and every dream is within reach.