Melbourne Victory is excited to reveal it will be supporting the Afghan Women’s National Team in its return to football as they look to compete in the Football Victoria Senior Women’s competition in 2022.
After the recent plight of the team in their native Afghanistan and the support of the Australian football family – lead by former Socceroo and Human Rights advocate Craig Foster AM – to relocate them to Melbourne, the team hit the track as a group for the first time on Saturday morning at Darebin International Sports Centre in Thornbury.
The team will play under the Melbourne Victory banner, being provided with the full support of the Club’s football operations and will be assessed by Football Victoria technical staff for their competition grading ahead of the 2022 season.
Team Captain and goalkeeper, Fatema said the team is excited to restart their careers and that playing football again is the next step on their road to recovery in Australia.
“All the girls are excited about playing together again,” Fatema said.
“We wanted to stay together as a team to show that the Taliban can take away our country, but not our right to play the sport we love and will ask for everyone’s support so that we can continue our international careers.
“Even while we make new lives in Australia, we are still the Afghan Women’s National Football Team and we will keep the right of Afghan girls to play sport alive. Thank you to the Australian Government, Melbourne Victory and Football Victoria for your support.”
Craig Foster AM played a central role in the evacuation of the team from Kabul airport in collaboration with the Australian Government.
“My thanks to Melbourne Victory and Football Victoria for their support of the team,” Foster said.
“Many great people and organisations played a part in their courageous escape but as they take the field again, we are reminded that their international careers have been obliterated by the Taliban.
“Football cannot allow this to happen. Gender equality is a fundamental principle of international football and this team embodies this right. They are a powerful symbol of women’s rights in Afghanistan and all around the world and that is something the game must protect.”
Former team Captain, now based in Denmark, Khalida Popal – who assisted hundreds of female footballers to flee to Australia, the UK, Portugal and elsewhere – said the team is ready to get back to the football field.
“The girls have taken time to recover from their horrible ordeal of escaping Afghanistan and to make a new life in Australia and are ready to take the field again,” Popal said.
“Playing football is their love and their right and the Taliban will never take that away from them. Thank you to Melbourne Victory who will provide the highest level of professionalism for them to continue their careers.
“We aim to see them playing internationally again and hope that FIFA to allow them to compete. FIFA must not allow their rights as female footballers to be taken away as the rights of so many women and girls in Afghanistan have been.”
Melbourne Victory Managing Director Caroline Carnegie said today is a key step in the side’s return to football.
“Melbourne Victory is incredibly proud to play a role supporting the Afghan Women’s National Team and helping them return to the pitch to do what they love,” Carnegie said.
“The larger football community has once again pulled together to stand up for everyone’s right to play football.”