Don’t Steal Athletic Freedom From Oppressed Women’s Sports Team

Target: Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA

Goal: Recognize the Afghanistan Women’s Team and restore their right to compete in international competition.

Association football’s (aka soccer) Women’s World Cup, Asian Cup, and qualifiers for the Summer Olympics are set to take place in the coming months. They will carry on without an important and longstanding member: the Afghanistan Women’s Team. And the sport’s governing bodies are fully complicit in this latest slap in the face to Afghan women.

The women were evacuated from Afghanistan soon after the Taliban’s takeover. They feared for their freedoms, their careers, and possibly even their lives if they remained, and recent history has validated their fears. Australia took in these women and provided them training facilities and a place within their leagues. But all of the aid may have been for nothing in terms of the Afghan team’s livelihoods because both the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) have withdrawn this team from all future competitions, or even qualifications. In the eyes of these international sports leaders, the team does not even exist.

These actions send a dangerous and reinforcing message about the value–or lack thereof–women have both in Afghanistan and in the soccer world as a whole. Sign the petition below to call on the controversy magnet FIFA to set a better precedent.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Infantino,

Records indicate that women have played association football since its earliest forms. In many nations, the accomplishments of these athletes now eclipse the achievements and the renown of their male counterparts. Despite the gains made, this governing body still somehow continually finds itself on the wrong side of gender equality. Continued conversations about the pay gaps are now being joined by deep concerns about the treatment of a team from a nation where oppression of women still reigns supreme.

FIFA has essentially erased the Afghanistan Women’s Team from existence. These women already left their lives and their families behind so they could continue to live their dreams freely and openly. To have the organization that should be supporting them turn its back instead is deeply hurtful and another stain on this sport. Former team captain Khalida Popal summarized it best: “I was expecting more from FIFA and sports governing bodies, but once again they’ve shown women’s football is always the second and not the priority.” Another player, Mursal Sadat, still has hope: “it would mean the world to me and my team here if we could get clearance from FIFA to represent our country and see the Afghanistan flag fly among other countries.”

The ball is at your feet. As the Women’s World Cup draws near, make the right call and restore this team to FIFA rankings and play. Will you prove the disillusioned right, or will you finally stand with Afghan women and with women the world over who are awaiting their long-overdue recognition?

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Howcheng


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