‘Symbolic’ Afghan women’s national football team gives voice to the voiceless on and off the pitch in Melbourne

More than 11,000 kilometers from Kabul, Afghanistan National Women’s players have returned to their beloved football game.

The stage was set. An autumn Melbourne afternoon, early May, with rays of hope from the sun peeking through the clouds in a suburban park, far from the lights of larger stadiums.

Separated from families where girls can’t go to school, Afghanistan’s leading women’s sports team has started its first season nine months after applying for asylum in Australia.

Human rights lawyer and former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has assisted the women in their move to play in Victoria’s State League Division 4 West under the banner of the Melbourne Victory Afghan Women’s Team.

“Teams like this amazing team from Afghanistan are incredibly important because they represent tens of thousands of refugees who have no voice,” said Foster.

Former Socceroos captain and human rights lawyer, Craig Foster
Former Socceroos captain and human rights lawyer Craig Foster says the team can heal by playing in Australia.ABC Sports: Damien Peck

“They know that every time they kick a ball here, every time they score a goal, every time they even walk on the field with a smile and enjoy their basic right to play sport, they are punching all women and girls … in Afghanistan. They are a battle for women’s rights around the world.”

There is so much more at stake for these women than winning football as they have given up so much to shift their livelihoods for a chance to just play in what is now considered a home away from home.

“The fact that they are footballers gives them the opportunity through sport to tell their story,” Foster said.

“It gives them the chance to talk to Australians. And getting to know and love this team will also help us think better about what we do with other refugees.

“So this team is incredibly symbolic of so much that Australia needs to change.”

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