‘Football Is Like Food’: Afghan Feminine Soccer Players Obtain a Residence in Italy

AVEZZANO, Italy — Two days soon after Taliban fighters seized Herat, Afghanistan’s third-greatest town, the Italian journalist Stefano Liberti acquired a message through Facebook: “Hi sir, we are in issues. Can you assistance us?” The message past thirty day period came from Susan, 21, the previous captain of Bastan, a […]

AVEZZANO, Italy — Two days soon after Taliban fighters seized Herat, Afghanistan’s third-greatest town, the Italian journalist Stefano Liberti acquired a message through Facebook: “Hi sir, we are in issues. Can you assistance us?”

The message past thirty day period came from Susan, 21, the previous captain of Bastan, a women’s soccer crew that experienced when been the topic of a documentary by Mr. Liberti and his colleague Mario Poeta.

“Football is like foodstuff to me,” Susan would say later, and the dread that she may well by no means enjoy again under Taliban rule, “made me really feel as even though I was useless.” Like some others interviewed in this short article, only her 1st identify is employed to protect her identification.

13 times just after she created get hold of with Mr. Liberti, Susan arrived in Italy together with two of her teammates, their mentor and various relatives customers. They touched down at Rome’s principal airport right after a flight designed attainable by the two journalists, a Florence-centered NGO, a number of Italian lawmakers and officers in the Italian Defense and Foreign Ministries.

The Herat group, 16 people in all, transited by a tent camp run by the Italian Red Cross in Avezzano, in the Apennine Mountains, where far more than 1,400 Afghans evacuated to Italy have quarantined in recent months.

Like so many Afghans, the gamers remaining at the rear of the life they had built in buy to make the journey. Susan halted her college studies in English literature to leave the region with her mother and father, two sisters and a brother.

Women of all ages had been banned from sporting activities for the duration of the very first Taliban period. Even just after the team was ousted from electric power in 2001, participating in sports activities ongoing to be a obstacle for Afghan women, and for the adult men who assisted them.

In “Herat Football Club” the journalists’ 2017 documentary about the group, Najibullah, the mentor, stated that he experienced been continuously threatened by the Taliban for coaching younger women of all ages.

The Taliban’s return to electrical power has elevated fears not only that limitations on sports will be reimposed, but also that the female athletes who emerged in the earlier 20 years will be subject matter to reprisals.

Khalida Popal, the previous captain of the countrywide women’s team who still left Afghanistan in 2011 and now life in Copenhagen, employed social and mainstream media past month to suggest ladies who’d played sports in Afghanistan to shut down their social media accounts, clear away any on the web existence and even burn off their uniforms.

“They have no one to go to, to seek safety, to inquire for enable if they are in risk,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

An additional Herat player, Fatema, 19, also still left driving her college reports, in public administration and policy. She arrived in Italy with a brother, but her father fell ill though they experimented with to get by the crowds at the Kabul airport, so he and her mother remained behind.

“They reported to me, ‘You go, go for your foreseeable future, for soccer, for your education’,” Fatema reported.

“Playing football would make me sense potent and an case in point for other women, to demonstrate that you can do anything you want to do,” Fatema reported. She expressed hope that would be the scenario in Italy, way too. “I want to make it my country now,” she reported.

The oldest of the 3 players, Maryam, 23, had by now gained a diploma in management and had worked as a driving school teacher in Herat. She observed herself as a role design, inspiring young women of all ages by example “because of football, simply because of driving.”

“I was an lively member of modern society,” Maryam stated, a position she was particular she could not have below the Taliban.

Maryam was the only group member to get there in Italy alone, nevertheless she mentioned she was hoping that her spouse and children would be a part of her. “It’s difficult for me to smile,” she claimed. “But I hope my foreseeable future will be great, absolutely greater than underneath the Taliban.”

The gamers say that a lot of of their Herat teammates are still in Kabul, hoping to find transit to Australia, wherever some gamers on Afghanistan’s women’s countrywide crew have been evacuated.

Past Friday, the 3 gals and their families have been relocated to the Italian town of Florence. In Italy, the nationwide soccer federation, some soccer golf equipment and the captain of the national group, Sara Gama, have available their assistance to the youthful Afghan players.

“There’s been a whole lot of solidarity,” Mr. Liberti, the documentary maker, stated.

And on a warm afternoon past 7 days, Fatema and Maryam did a little something they experienced in no way done just before: They kicked a ball all around with a couple of boys.

Asked how it felt, Maryam grinned broadly and gave a thumbs up.

“It felt good,” included Fatema. “People did not appear at us as while we experienced completed a little something incorrect.”

Traci J. Lewis

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