Members of Afghanistan’s women’s football team have arrived in neighboring Pakistan, the information minister in Islamabad said on Tuesday.
Former Afghanistan women’s team captain Khalida Popal says she helped with the evacuation process, tweeting: “I am happy to announce that once with the great support I managed to get more than 79 youth female footballers & family members out of Afg.”
“This time I got the support from the great team at Rokitfoundation,” she added.
The players entered Pakistan through the Torkham border crossing with valid travel documents, according to Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
“We welcome the Afghanistan Women football team after they arrived at the Torkham Border from Afghanistan; the players were in possession of valid Afg Passport, Pak visa, and they were received by Nouman Nadeem of PFF,” Chaudhry said in a tweet.
Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) vice president Aamir Dogar said on Twitter: “It was made possible after a sincere effort by officials of (the) Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and (the) Government of Pakistan”.
In a video interview with AFP, a mother of a player arriving in Pakistan said: “My name is Nafeesa, I’m a mother of Fatima and my daughter is a player in Herat in Afghanistan … thank you very much for the help to Pakistan and also in Lahore. Thank you very much to other people that helped us.”
“The government encouraged my daughter, but the new government is not encouraging my daughters because my daughter wants to study in the faculty. So, after that she wants to play football. So, the Taliban don’t allow for the daughters or women to play football or exercise in Afghanistan,” she added.
It is unclear exactly how many Afghan female players and their families were permitted to enter Pakistan, nor what their plans are moving forward.
Earlier this month, a large number of women footballers and athletes were airlifted to safety on an evacuation flight to Australia amid the Taliban takeover.
Former Afghanistan women’s assistant coach Haley Carter told CNN how a “ragtag group” managed to coordinate the safe evacuation of 86 Afghan athletes, officials and family members.
Carter worked closely with the team’s former captain, Popal, who had also spoken to CNN last month regarding the plight of female athletes trapped in the country.
“We made it our mission to empower those women,” Carter explained.
“We wanted to create a football team that could compete at the international level. But we all knew that this effort was something much, much bigger than football. We gave them the opportunity to use sport to get out of the house, to get an education.”