Dozens of sportswomen and athletes under threat in Afghanistan have been evacuated by the Australian government, the global football players’ union said on Tuesday.
Khalida Popal, the former national team captain of Afghanistan who helped with the evacuation for the sportswomen, said some had been beaten and heard gunshots as they fled. Popal tweeted a picture of the group huddled together in an aircraft, and another showing them walking on the tarmac with bags on their backs.
“The 75 players and some family members are out of Afghanistan,” she wrote.
“They’re going to kill us… Taliban is oppressor… They’re killing my team”
— BBC World Service Sport (@BBCWSSport) August 20, 2021
“Sleepless nights, being on the call all the time answering questions. Handling media, motiving players to keep fighting & not give up even there were gunfires, they were beaten. Was tough.”
The International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) said the evacuated Afghan sportswomen had been “in a position of danger” and “many athletes” were still at risk. A statement on FIFPro’s website expressed gratitude for the Australian government’s evacuation efforts.
“These young women, both as athletes and activists, have been in a position of danger and on behalf of their peers around the world we thank the international community for coming to their aid,” FIFPro said in the statement.
FIFPro did not say what the final destination of the women was, although the union tweeted on Sunday that several countries and groups were involved.
“We are grateful for the assistance of governments, military and human rights groups who are collaborating closely with us to evacuate women footballers and other athletes from Afghanistan.”
Sports were viewed as a distraction from religious duties and tightly controlled during Taliban rule between 1996-2001, with women completely banned from taking part.
With the Taliban back in power, questions have been raised whether the Afghan women's national football team will be able to participate in the upcoming Asian Cup.https://t.co/hCEHcZisf5
— DW News (@dwnews) August 23, 2021
© AFP with additional inputs from GVS