Afghan girl soccer team exiled in Portugal


The girls on the Afghanistan national football team were worried. For weeks, they roamed the country, waiting for the words they could leave.

One wants to be a doctor, the other wants to be a film producer, and the other wants to be an engineer. I dream of becoming a professional soccer player.

The message finally arrived at the beginning of Sunday: charter flights will carry girls and their families from Afghanistan to places they did not know. The bus that took them to the airport was already on their way.

“They left home and left everything behind,” said the Afghan women’s national team, who worked from her Canadian home for the past few weeks to communicate with the girls and help arrange their rescue. Captain Farkhunda Muhtaj told The Associated Press. .. “They can’t understand that they are out of Afghanistan.”

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, girls aged 14 to 16 and their families have been living under the Taliban, not only because women and girls are forbidden to play sports. I was about to leave because I was afraid of it. They were defenders of girls and active members of their community.

At the end of Sunday, they landed in Lisbon, Portugal.

In this week’s interview with AP, Muhtaj, football team members, part of their family, and football federation staff said their last days in Afghanistan, their international efforts to save them, and their new I talked about the promise of freedom.

A rescue mission, called the Operation Soccer Ball, was coordinated with Tullivan through former U.S. military and intelligence officials, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), U.S. allies, and the United Nations of humanitarian groups. Nick McKinley said. A veteran of the CIA and Air Force who founded the Dallas-based Deliver Fund. This non-profit organization reserves housing for a family of 50 Afghanistan.

“Everything had to be done very quickly. Ground contact showed that we had a time frame of about three hours,” McKinley said. “Time was very important.”

Afghanistan National Women's Soccer Team Member
Members of the Afghanistan Women’s Soccer Team will be seen on September 21, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. (AP photo)

Operation Soccer Ball was hit by many setbacks, including several failed rescue attempts and a suicide bombing at Kabul Airport by Taliban rival ISIS terrorists, with 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel. Died. The bombing took place during a tragic airlift that admitted that the US military had some coordination with the Taliban.

It was the size of the group that complicated the rescue operation. 80 people, including 26 youth team members, and other children, including adults and toddlers.

Robert McCreeley, a former parliamentary chief and white house official under President George W. Bush, who worked with special forces in Afghanistan to lead efforts to rescue the national women’s football team, said Portugal to the girl and her family. He said he admitted asylum.

“The world has come together to help these girls and their families,” McCreary said. “These girls are really a symbol of the light of the world and mankind.”

The Taliban sought to present a new image, promising amnesty to former adversaries and saying they would form an inclusive government. Many Afghans do not trust these promises and are afraid that the Taliban will soon resort to the brutal tactics of the 1996-2001 rules, including keeping girls and women out of school and work. ..

This week, the Taliban set up the Ministry for the Propagation and Discipline in the building where the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was once. This is the latest sign of limiting women’s rights.

As the girls moved from safehouse to safehouse, teacher Mutaji said he helped them calm down through virtual exercise and yoga sessions, and by giving them homework, including writing autobiographies.

She said she couldn’t share details about the rescue mission with the girl and her family, and asked her and others to “blindly” believe.

“Their mental condition was deteriorating. Many of them were homesick. Many of them missed their friends in Kabul,” Muhtaj said. “They had unconditional faith. We revived their spirit.”

Some girls talked to AP through an interpreter. They said they wanted to continue playing soccer. I was urged not to do it while I was hiding. And I would like to meet Manchester United forward and Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wida Zemarai, goalkeeper and coach of the Afghan women’s national football team, who moved to Sweden after the Taliban came to power in 1996, said the girls were emotional after the rescue.

“They can now dream,” Zemarai said. “They can continue playing.”

Alex Sants

Associated Press