Activists, lawmakers urge FIFA to recognise exiled Afghanistan women footballers
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Afghan women football team
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, Girl Power Organisation founder Khalida Popal and over 100 parliamentarians from Australia and several nations in Europe urged FIFA to recognise the Afghan women’s football team.

On 21 June 2023, Malala tweeted: "As the Taliban erases women from public life, the Afghan women's football team remains a symbol of courage and resistance for their country. That is why I joined @khalida_popal (Khalida) and 100+ parliamentarians from the UK, Australia, Portugal and Italy to send a letter to FIFA asking them to push back against restrictions and allow Afghan women the freedom to play football."

Malala linked The Guardian's 20 June article to the tweet. 

Many of the Afghan footballers resettled in Australia when the Taliban took over Kabul.

UNHCR revealed that since 2021, 1.6 million people have fled Afghanistan, mainly to neighbouring countries. Another 3.2 million remain internally displaced inside the country. 

Without formal recognition from the governing body, the team cannot represent their country, compete in professional matches or receive funding for their players and staff. 

Days before the Women's World Cup started in Australia and New Zealand, the Afghan women's team and Melbourne Victory FC hosted the inaugural Hope Cup in Melbourne to raise awareness of the team’s current refugee status and to call on FIFA to allow them to represent their country from the diaspora. 

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi met the team in Australia during a visit in April. 

“I was so inspired to meet them and witness the transformative power of sport for people displaced by war and conflict, and as a critical means of inclusion,” he said, as documented by UNHCR.

“They are courageous women taking a chance to win inside and outside the football field and an inspiration to other refugees and all of us.” 

Despite no longer being recognized as a national team by the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, the women are working hard on making a future in sport in their new country. 

The Afghan men’s team, however, has started playing in FIFA-sanctioned competitions.

Sources: The Guardian, UNHCR

Main image: UNHCR


Operating Team


Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
10 – Reduced inequalities
Target Group
Displaced people

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