Afghanistan’s national national football team played in a local league match in Australia on Sunday for the first time since fleeing the Islamic extremist Taliban.
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Afghanistan were not allowed to be on goal offside in a Lower League amateur match in East Victoria, resulting in a goalless draw.
But it was a powerful and symbolic victory for Afghan women, who returned to the field together after leaving their homeland to rebuild their lives in Australia.
The game showed that the Taliban could not stop the soldiers, said team captain Nilab, who did not give a last name like his teammates to protect relatives living in Afghanistan.
“We are still continuing our struggle and our struggle to play for the Afghan people,” he told AFP.
“We left the country, but we are still thinking about our country and we are still working for our success for our country.”
When the Taliban returned to power eight months ago, Australia helped dozens of Afghan women national team players and their families escape.
The Taliban have severely restricted the freedom of women, banned the education of women and even barred women from boarding flights without male relatives.
As the players fled to different countries, the women’s national team was torn apart.
Together and powerful
But many have settled in and around Melbourne, the capital of the eastern state of Victoria, where the women’s A-League professional team, Melbourne Victory, helped them get back on the field.
Goalkeeper Fatima said those who saw pictures of Afghanistan on social media after the Taliban’s return could understand the courage the players needed to leave their homes.
“They can understand how difficult and difficult it was for all of us to be in this situation,” he told AFP.
“Today we play as a team and together and strong. This is unbelievable. “
Jeff Hopkins, the team’s coach, praised ETA Buffalo SC, the club’s Melbourne amateur side, founded in 1982 by friends who emigrated from East Timor during the Victoria State League 4 West.
“These young women have the opportunity to be treated as equals as they want, to be able to play the game they want,” Hopkins told AFP.
“It simply did not happen to them in Afghanistan – they were persecuted for it,” he said.
A few days before Sunday’s match, the Melbourne Victory Afghanistan women’s team was presented with their new flagship red dress, fully emblazoned with the national flag of Afghanistan.
The shirts are marked with numbers, but not names, to protect the families of the soldiers in Afghanistan.
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