Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai has praised Afghanistan’s football team as a symbol of courage and resistance, joining more than 100 UK lawmakers in urging the FIFA president to officially recognize the exiled Afghan women’s team. In a tweet, Malala emphasized the team’s significance amidst the Taliban’s efforts to erase women from public life.Malala, along with Afghanistan women’s national team founder Khalida Popal and parliamentarians from the UK, Australia, Portugal, and Italy, sent a letter to FIFA requesting support in challenging the restrictions imposed on Afghan women’s football. This initiative follows a previous call made by Malala and Popal earlier this year.
The letter, co-written by Malala, Popal, and Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, has garnered support from 76 members of the UK parliament and parliamentarians from Australia, Portugal, and Italy. It urges FIFA to take stronger action against the limitations imposed on Afghan women’s participation in sports, emphasizing the importance of upholding equality and supporting these women to regain their place on the global stage.
During the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in 2021, the senior women’s national team was evacuated to Australia, which is co-hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand. They continue to function as a team, supported by Melbourne Victory, and currently compete in the seventh tier as Melbourne Victory FC AWT.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women have been prohibited from playing sports, and the national team has not been formally recognized or able to participate in international competitions. FIFA has stated that the selection of players and teams representing a member association is considered an internal matter.