‘Real action’: Governments must house Afghan female footballers and basketball players, Fifa warns

‘Not just to talk about solidarity or to talk about helping but to do it with real action,’ says Fifa president

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Tuesday 26 October 2021 18:43
<p>Afghan refugee girls watch football game at an army base in Wisconsin  </p>

Afghan refugee girls watch football game at an army base in Wisconsin

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Governments around the world must accommodate female footballers and basketball players who recently escaped Afghanistan, the president of Fifa has said.

Gianni Infantino called for world leaders and senior figures in football to do more than simply talking about showing “solidarity” and instead take concrete “action” on the issue.

The comments come after female footballers, basketball players, referees, coaches, and their families were freed from Taliban-seized Afghanistan by Fifa last week, The Independent revealed.

Some 57 people who have links with football and sport overall – predominantly women and children – arrived in the Qatari capital of Doha last Wednesday. Nineteen of the group who escaped Afghanistan are part of the national female basketball team.

While in the Qatari capital of Doha, the group is staying in accommodation earmarked for next year’s World Cup as they await refugee status in other nations.

Speaking at a visit to where 150 Afghan refugees affiliated with women’s sport are staying, Mr Infantino said: “We need more countries, we need more governments, we need more football family members to help – not just to talk about solidarity or to talk about helping but to do it with real action.

“We will continue to knock on all the doors around the world, and we hope that some will listen and hear this plea, this call for help, and will open the doors to these girls, who all have an amazing life story to tell.”

Fifa’s president thanked Qatar and the Emir of the Gulf state for helping with the evacuation of Aghan refugees as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan escalates. He also heaped his thanks on the Albanian government for accommodating the first group of evacuees, giving football players and their families temporary settlement.

His comments come after at least 20 women footballers - mainly women and girls, including some who play for the national team - were among 100 refugees evacuated by Fifa from Afghanistan in mid-October, The Independent revealed.

Afghanistan has been catapulted into chaos since the Taliban grabbed power in mid-August as the US and other Western troops withdrew. The last time the hardline Islamist group ruled the country, women were barred from working, while girls were blocked from going to school, and women were forcibly chaperoned by a male relative if they wanted to venture outside the home.

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