Aug 24, 2021 - World

Afghan women's soccer team players evacuated from Kabul

India plays Afghanistan in in the 3rd South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) women's football championship at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad on November 17, 2014.

Afghanistan plays India in the 3rd South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) women's football championship in Islamabad in November 2014. Photo: Farooq Naeem/AFP via Getty Images

Members of Afghanistan's national women's soccer team and other female athletes were part of an evacuation of 75 people from Kabul on Tuesday, according to international soccer players’ union FIFPRO.

Why it matters: "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," the union said in the statement.

The state of play: The union also thanked the Australian government for its help in the evacuation.

  • The statement added that many other athletes remain at risk in Afghanistan and appealed for help for their evacuations.

What they're saying: “The last few days have been extremely stressful but today we have achieved an important victory," Khalida Popal, former Afghanistan national team captain, said in the statement.

  • "The women footballers have been brave and strong in a moment of crisis and we hope they will have a better life outside Afghanistan," she added.
  • “We are relieved that this group of footballers and athletes have been able to leave Afghanistan today. ... Our hearts go out to all the others who remain stranded in the country against their will," Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, FIFPRO general secretary, said.

The big picture: During Taliban rule in the 1990s, women were banned from playing sports and faced violent and harsh penalties for doing so.

  • The Afghan national women's soccer team was created in 2007, when "women playing sport was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban," AP reports.
  • Following the Taliban resurgence this month, players were advised to delete social media posts and photos of them playing to avoid retribution, per AP.

Go deeper: After Afghan soccer player dies falling from evacuation plane, world players' union works to help others

Go deeper