FIFA Calls for International Help to Relocate Afghan Athletes

“I really ask all the governments of Europe and the rest of the world to help us to obtain a new home” for those who have already been evacuated, said the FIFA president.

The international community should step up its efforts to help Afghan athletes to be relocated to third countries after the return to power of the Taliban in August, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told AFP.

More than 150 Afghan athletes, including some 50 soccer players, were evacuated to Qatar with their families this October, in coordination with FIFA. But hundreds of athletes are still in Afghanistan and want to leave the country.

“I really ask all the governments of Europe and the rest of the world to help us get a new home” for those who have already been evacuated, Infantino told AFP during an interview in Doha.

“We cannot be content with talking about solidarity and talking about helping these people. We must do it in a concrete way,” he added.

“They have experienced something that none of us can even imagine and we have managed to make them leave” the country, he said.

The Taliban overthrew the US-backed Afghan government in August and now continue to make diplomatic efforts to gain international support, promising to exercise powerless harshly than in 1996-2001.

But in practice, women are no longer able to go to school or work, which has raised fears among female athletes as well.

The Taliban have not yet issued clear instructions on sports practice by women in Afghanistan, but statements by various officials suggest that they will be hindered.

– “Also human beings” –

During the first period in the power of the Taliban, women were prohibited from playing a sport or attending a match as spectators. Sports stadiums are served regularly for public performances.

Joyce Cook, head of social and education issues at FIFA, indicated that 158 ​​people from the sports community and their families would leave Doha to travel to Albania until a resettlement solution is found. They are part of a list of 545 people, he said.

“We really need countries to speak out now,” Cook told AFP, adding that “the biggest challenge now is finding countries” as a permanent home.

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“FIFA has 211 member associations, therefore 211 countries. We ask each of those countries to help us,” he added.

One of the members of the Afghan women’s national soccer team told AFP how her world fell apart since the fall of Kabul under Taliban control. Even before, he stressed, the situation was “difficult” in Afghanistan.

“There are people who have a very narrow mentality and who believe that women are nothing. I want to show them that women are also human beings. That is why I dedicated myself to football,” he said, refusing to be identified.

“It was difficult, even for my family. Little by little, they began to support me, but sometimes the situation got difficult,” said this woman, a young health professional who ran a clinic in Afghanistan.

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