It was a moment of triumph, ecstasy, and freedom. Young Afghan women footballers, who fled the Taliban, defeated British female MPs in their new home in London.
In the South London ground of non-league club Dulwich Hamlet, women focused on what they do best in a match against the UK Women’s Parliamentary Football Club.
“I’m very proud of them,” Khalida Popal, an activist and former captain of the Afghan women’s team, told a news agency.
“They’re practicing their human rights, and their freedom to play football, and to be together — that’s the most beautiful thing,” she said.
“They’re very strong human beings, knowing what they have been through, the trauma, the violence, everything that they have witnessed.”
Former sports minister Tracey Crouch, co-captain for the MPs, shrugged with good humor at the final result.
Nobody bothered keeping score after the Afghan women’s lead reached double digits.
“They’re all really good, we’re all really bad,” Crouch said.
“But that’s not the point. The point is that we have played this amazing game,” she added.
“We’re all really privileged, quite humbled, to play these girls, they’ve just been through so much.”
– Painful –
The evacuation flight to Britain brought 35 female footballers and their families, a total of 130 people, in the weeks after the Taliban recaptured Kabul as US-led Western forces quit Afghanistan.
After several months off the pitch as they started new lives in Britain, the Afghan women were just happy to be playing again, their captain Sabreyah said.
But she turned tearful reflecting on those now chafing under Taliban rule.
“My friends are kept home every day,” Sabreyah, who is in her early 20s and gave only one name, said through an interpreter.
“I’m really upset that the girls of my country can’t even get an education. It is really painful for me.
“I faced a lot of problems playing football, but now the problems have only increased.”
Popal, who organized the exfiltration flight, said the young women were determined to make a success of their new lives in Britain.
“But they’re also missing home. They’re still in shock of what happened in Afghanistan and why it happened,” she said.