Women’s rights activist and Noble Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has expressed her support for the women’s football team from Afghanistan, who were banned by the current Taliban government from playing the sport after the takeover in 2021. Currently, the team resides in Melbourne, Australia, where they escaped to in 2021, but right now the football team is not recognised by the government or the FIFA organisation.
“I’m very sad. I was expecting a lot more for football’s governing body,” said Khalida Popal, who was the former captain of the women’s football team.
“[Fifa needs] to stand with these women. We want leadership – we need a strong voice to stand with us. Don’t keep silent.”
Currently, the Afghanistan Women’s Football team is being sponsored by the Australian professional football club Melbourne Victory, and now activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has joined the ranks in calling for the team to be recognised by FIFA.
The producer behind ‘Joyland’ was in Melbourne to watch the Women’s World Cup and shared a post of her meeting the team members of the Afghanistan women’s football team, writing that she was inspired by their bravery and determination.
“I came to Melbourne because of a story. The New York Times published an incredible account of the keeper for the Afghanistan Women’s Team and how its founder @khalida_popal_girlpower helped the players escape near-certain death after the Taliban gained control and banned women’s sports. I was inspired by their bravery and determination. They were so proud to play for their national team and now they were burying their jerseys to avoid being caught and killed.
Today, I finally met the AWT in person— including Fatima and Khalida — to continue to support their campaign to be recognised by FIFA. This is the power of stories and why we must continue to share them. You never know who could be listening.”
The Pakistan-born activist urged her followers to read more about the football team and to donate funds to help support them as they live in exile and away from their families