The Afghanistan national women’s football team, with help from A-League side Melbourne Victory, made its football debut in Australia Sunday following its evacuation from the Taliban-led country last year.
The Melbourne Victory Afghan Women’s Team played a 0-0 draw in its opening game Sunday in Victoria’s senior women’s competition.
The game comes only months after 30 players and coaches were rescued as part of an evacuation operation by the Australian government as the Taliban took back control of the country after 20 years and again placed women’s sports in jeopardy.
For the Afghan women, even the draw was a powerful, symbolic victory as they returned to the pitch together after leaving their homeland to rebuild their lives in Australia.
The game showed that the Taliban could not stop the players, said team captain Nilab.
“We still continue our fight and our combat just to play for the Afghanistan people,” she told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“We fled the country but we are still thinking of our country and we are still working for our victory for our country.”
The Victory is providing its support to the members of the team who relocated to Melbourne. The team held its first training session in February and will play under Victory’s banner this year.
But instead of sporting Victory’s traditional navy blue with a white “V,” the team will wear a kit that pays homage to their homeland, a red home shirt and white away shirt with the Afghanistan flag on the back.
The shirts do not have the player’s family names on the back which the players say is to protect family members still in Afghanistan and potentially under threat from the Taliban. Instead, the players have their first names or nicknames on their shirts.
The Afghan team was created in 2007, played its first official international in 2010 against Nepal and won its first match 2-0 over Qatar in 2012.
The rise of the Taliban and the subsequent escape of the players also led to the team withdrawing from qualifying matches for the Women’s Asian Cup in India in February, which doubled as a qualifier for next year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Most Commented Posts