The Australian Government has evacuated a number of female footballers, athletes and their dependents from Afghanistan following an appeal by world bodies FIFA and FIFPRO.
The news was confirmed by FIFPRO, the association for professional footballers, that members of the women’s national football team were among a group of female athletes successfully evacuated from Afghanistan.
Last week, football’s world governing body FIFA joined FIFPRO in writing to governments around the world requesting assistance, as players feared for their lives.
A statement by the international footballers’ federation FIFPRO expressed gratitude to Australia, whilst acknowledging the need for further work in settling the women abroad.
“We are grateful to the Australian government for evacuating a large number of women footballers and athletes from Afghanistan,” FIFPRO said in a statement.
“These young women, both as athletes and activists, have been in a position of danger and on behalf of their peers around the world we thank the international community for coming to their aid.
“There are also many athletes still at risk in Afghanistan and every effort should be made to offer them support.”
Former Afghan women’s team captain turned team director, Khalida Popal, hailed the evacuation.
“The last few days have been extremely stressful, but today we have achieved an important victory,” she said.
“The women footballers have been brave and strong in a moment of crisis, and we hope they will have a better life outside Afghanistan.”
The evacuation came as a result of efforts made by prominent sports people, including Popal. Nikki Dryden, who swam for Canada at two Olympic Games, worked with an Australian lawyer to complete the visa applications for the athletes, which included two Afghan Paralympians.
In addition, the refugee advocates also secured the help of former Socceroos captain, Craig Foster, who lobbied Australian Government officials.
FIFPRO thanked Foster and Dryden, among others, for their efforts and urged the international community to ensure that the players receive the help they need in their new lives.