Women’s Football in Afghanistan: A Path to Global Success

Women’s Football in Afghanistan: A Path to Global Success

How Afghanistan women’s football teammade it to Australia

As women’s football in Afghanistan increases, the country’s young players are now looking for a route to global success.

By Amanda Deidrich

In 2007, the war in Afghanistan began to break open for Afghans, who had remained largely confined to their homes, and for foreigners, who were drawn to fight against the Taliban. From their first match, in Kabul’s Karzai Stadium, when women’s footballers travelled to their side to play against men in an international under-18 tournament, the sport was embraced by the country’s educated middle classes. Now, in a region that is struggling to keep up with the demands of its growing needs, women’s football is becoming more popular, not less.

“It was really hard work out there, to make us look like the men, so that they can see that we were tough,” says Zahra, 25, an Afghan woman who plays in the Afghan Women’s League. “But we really wanted to show them how we played, so that they could see we can be just as good, if not better, than them. We want to show them there’s a path to go down, and a great future for women in football.”

Despite the game’s growing popularity, there is still a gap between the world’s most-accomplished women’s footballers and the rest of the female population. Football is often taken for granted by the vast majority of the Afghan female population, even if they are not afforded access to the sport. While statistics on the proportion of female Afghan football players and the female number of football teams tend to show a decline after 2011, the women’s game remains poorly developed in the country.

In terms of players, Afghanistan has produced two champions and four silver-medal winners in the World Cup. In 2012, the Afghan National Team won the AFC Challenge Cup at the end of a two-year gap, with a 15-player all-woman side, playing as the host team.

The success of the women’s side at the World Cup was followed up by the first ever participation in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup held in November last year, a competition where the top three of Afghanistan, China, and the United Arab Emirates were drawn

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