🇦🇫⚽ The Afghan ladies national football team |🇦🇫 NATO in Afghanistan


It’s not how you’d imagine a players tunnel
in a national stadium, but the Afghan women’s football team have to make the best of what
they have. In a country that’s still deeply conservative
and where many view women participating in sport as anti-religious, being a female sports
woman is a risky profession. Yet it doesn’t put off these young athletes
playing the game they love. Team Captain Zahra Mahmodi is 20 and has been
involved with the national team for four years. “My family are angry with my playing – they
are really worried about the situation in Afghanistan, the security – because of that
they are really worried about me, they tell me “you have to stop this” and “don’t
continue playing” but I am always fighting with them! (laughs)” Zahra’s parents have good reason to worry.
Sportswomen here are threatened with retribution for their rebellious ways, so they’re forced
to train here in the confines of the stadium where the entrances are guarded and they cannot
be seen by outsiders. There are other problems the players have
to contend with. They have no choice but to train on this disused concrete basketball
court, as the precious grass pitch is out of bounds except for goalkeeping practice. “One of the most facilities that our team
needs is a field that we can play on, but unfortunately we don’t have a good field
to play on and that’s the biggest problem.” A lack of facilities like this is something
that an amateur team in the West would be unhappy with; for a national team it is almost
unheard of in world football. Wahidullah Wahidi is the team coach – he
played organised football from the age of 10 and went on to have a career spanning 25
years, including playing for and then helping to coach the top club team in neighbouring
Iran. It’s the sort of opportunity he’s desperate for these talented footballers to
have, but again the lack of facilities and funds to pay for them seriously hinders his
attempts to develop his players. He told me “If you want to promote a sport
you need a budget – if you don’t have a budget how can you develop your players?
Even now you can see our team is playing on cement.” In spite of the obstacles, everyone involved
with the team tries their best with what they have along with help from the outside, particularly
some generous benefactors from Germany. In 2010 they were invited there to participate
in their first competitive tournament where they played ladies teams from other disadvantaged
countries. Wahidullah says he sees playing these types
of games as vital if the team are to progress. “We need to play friendly matches with other
countries.” he tells me. Regardless of their humble surroundings, they
still try to emulate the best. Wahidullah says he studies the tactics of top Spanish
side Barcelona, and Zahra’s’s favourite footballer is Ryan Giggs of Manchester United. But for now they must set their sights lower
and deal with a less glamorous reality – the hunt for better facilities such as a secure
training pitch continues, along with the continuing hope that the idea of women playing the sport
they love will one day be universally accepted here. It’s a goal these young women are
determined to achieve.

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