The Afghan women’s football team has fled to Pakistan.
Officials reported Wednesday that members of Afghanistan’s national girls’ football team fled across the border into Pakistan wearing burqas, a month after the hardline Taliban surged back into power.
Last month, a group of young players, their coaches, and their families attempted to flee the country, but were stranded after a horrific bomb assault at Kabul airport, according to a source close to the team.
“I received a request for their rescue from another English-based NGO, so I wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan, who gave them permission to land in Pakistan,” said Sardar Naveed Haider, a London-based ambassador for the global development NGO Football for Peace.
On Tuesday, a total of over 75 persons crossed the northern border before heading south to Lahore, where they were greeted with flower garlands.
The females in the under-14, under-16, and under-18 teams crossed the land border wearing burqas before changing into headscarves, according to Haider.
Afghanistan’s new authorities have hinted that women and girls will be restricted from participating in sports, as they were during their previous regime in the 1990s.
Women are “not required” to play, according to a top Taliban official who spoke to Australian media.
However, Afghanistan’s new director general for sports, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, stated on Tuesday that top-level Taliban leaders were still debating.
Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s federal minister for information, greeted the female players with a tweet early Wednesday morning.
“We extend our warmest greetings to the Afghanistan Women’s Football Team, who have arrived at the Torkham Border from Afghanistan. The players had legitimate Afghan passports and Pakistan visas, and they were met by PFF’s Nouman Nadeem,” Chaudhry tweeted.
Pakistan’s prime minister is a former international cricketer who is revered by Pakistanis as a sports icon.
Since the Taliban took power, tens of thousands of Afghans have fled the country, fearing retaliation or harassment.