Dozens of Afghan players granted refuge after escaping Taliban

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Pictured here, members of the Afghan women's national football team celebrate after fleeing to Portugal.
Some members of the Afghan women's national football team had fled to Portugal in September. Pic: Getty

Around 100 Afghan football stars and their families have been granted refuge in Qatar, after fleeing from the Taliban forces that have taken control in their homeland.

The Qatari government announced on Thursday that Afghan players - many of them women - had arrived in the country on a flight evacuating 357 people from Afghanistan.

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The plane was one of eight passenger flights to arrive from Kabul, according to Qatar’s assistant foreign minister Lolwah Alkhater.

"Around 100 footballers & their families including female players are on board," Alkhater tweeted.

Qatar worked with FIFA to coordinate the evacuation of the players, including some on the national team, who were taken to a compound with other evacuees to undergo coronavirus testing.

It is unclear how long they will stay in Qatar.

The international players' union, FIFPRO, in August helped players from the Afghanistan women's national team secure flights from Kabul to Australia, the help of the Australian government.

“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 a statement at the time.

Afghan players seek refuge around the world 

Members of the women's youth football team evacuated to Pakistan in September. Other members of the national side were granted asylum in Portugal.

Concerns were raised for the safety of female athletes after the Afghan government fell much faster than publicly anticipated by the United States in August, allowing the Taliban to take back control of Kabul after 20 years.

Seen here, US soldiers stand guard as Afghan civilians wait to board a US military aircraft to leave the country in August.
US soldiers stand guard as Afghan civilians wait to board a US military aircraft to leave the country in August. Pic: Getty

The women's national team was created in 2007 after the suppression of the Taliban, which forbade women from playing in sports and is doing so again with its renewed power. 

Khalida Popal, a former captain of the team, urged national team members in August to erase their social media profiles out of fear of violence at the hands of the Taliban.

"Today I'm calling them and telling them, take down their names, remove their identities, take down their photos for their safety," Popal said in August.

"Even I'm telling them to burn down or get rid of your national team uniform.

"And that is painful for me, for someone as an activist who stood up and did everything possible to achieve and earn that identity as a women's national team player. 

"To earn that badge on the chest, to have the right to play and represent our country, how much we were proud."

with agencies

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