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Afghan girls’ soccer squad find new home in Ronaldo’s Portugal

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(Last Updated On: October 1, 2021)

Leaving her homeland Afghanistan was painful, says 15-year-old Sarah. But now safely in Portugal, she hopes to pursue her dream of playing soccer professionally – and perhaps meeting her idol, star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, Reuters reported.

Sarah was one of several players from Afghanistan’s national female youth soccer squad who fled their country in fear after the Taliban hardline Islamist movement seized power in August.

Portugal has granted asylum to the young footballers.

“I’m free,” she said, smiling from ear-to-ear as she visited Lisbon’s landmark Belem Tower on the River Tagus with her mother and teammates.

“My dream is to be a good player like Ronaldo – and I want to be a big business woman here in Portugal,” she said.

She hoped to go back home one day but only if she can live freely, read the report.

Her mother, who requested that Reuters did not use their surname, had experienced first-hand a previous era of Taliban [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] rule from 1996 to 2001. She is less optimistic they will ever be able to return.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s leaders have promised to respect women’s rights but under their first government, women could not work and girls were banned from school. Women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative when they left home.

A senior Islamic Emirate official said after the Aug. 15 takeover that women would probably not be allowed to play sport because it was “not necessary” and their bodies might be exposed.

“The reason we took on this mission (to evacuate the team) was to ensure they can aspire and play the sport they love,” said Farkhunda Muhtaj, captain of the Afghanistan women’s senior national team, who flew to Lisbon on Wednesday to surprise the youth team players.

From her home in Canada, where she works as assistant soccer coach at a local university, Muhtaj has been in touch with the girls throughout the evacuation process, codenamed Operation Soccer Balls. It managed to rescue a total of 80 people – the female youth team and family members, including babies.

According to the Reuters report they landed in Portugal on Sept. 19.

When Muhtaj showed up on Wednesday night, the girls were ecstatic. They hugged. Some could not hold back the tears.

“They been through so much, so many challenges,” Muhtaj said. “They were just resilient and they were able to make it happen.”

One relative, 25-year-old Zaki Rasa, recalled the chaos at the Kabul airport, where he spent three anguished days. He is now delighted to be in Portugal and wants to continue his studies.

“There is some uncertainty about the future,” he said. “The important thing is that we are safe.”

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Afghanistan seek members’ support ahead of crucial ICC meeting

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has requested the support of other full members of the International Cricket Council ahead of next month’s crucial meeting where the game’s future in the South Asian country is likely to be decided, Reuters reported.

The strife-torn nation’s remarkable rise has been cricket’s biggest fairytale story in recent times but Afghanistan risk isolation following the country’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] takeover in August.

According to the report Cricket Australia (CA) has already threatened to scrap next month’s one-off test in Hobart between the men’s teams if the new government in Kabul did not allow women to play the sport.

World governing body ICC had taken a wait-and-watch approach on whether Afghanistan can continue as a full member – allowing it to play test matches – but will discuss the issue at a board meeting after the Twenty20 World Cup in the Middle East.

“ACB is committed to work for the development of cricket in the country and hope the ICC full members will provide their support,” Afghan board chairman Azizullah Fazli told Reuters.

Fazli said last month the ACB was committed to women’s cricket but was awaiting instructions from the IEA government on its future.

The IEA officials have said they will not repeat the harsh rule of the previous IEA government, which banned most girls’ education and forbade women from going out in public without a male guardian.

CA chief executive Nick Hockley has said the Hobart test was likely to be postponed until there was more clarity on the impact of the IEA takeover on sports in Afghanistan.

Fazli said he would meet CA officials on the sidelines of the Twenty20 World Cup and try to convince them to continue with the match as scheduled, Reuters reported.

“We are in touch with the CA management regarding the test match, and soon we will meet CA leadership to discuss it and further the friendship of CA and ACB,” Fazli said in text messages.

The ACB chief added that the uncertainty would not affect the performance of the Afghanistan team under captain Mohammad Nabi, read the report.

“The Afghanistan national cricket team is well prepared to do their best in the T20 World Cup,” he said.

Afghanistan will begin their Super 12 stage campaign with an Oct. 25 clash against a qualifier in Sharjah.

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Soccer-FIFA says it helped evacuate 100 players, family members from Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

World soccer’s governing body FIFA said on Friday it had worked with the Qatari government to evacuate almost 100 football players and their families from Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Aug. 15 and announced a new government last month after U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew and the Western-backed government collapsed.

According to the report the Qatar’s assistant foreign minister Lolwah Alkhater had said the players and their families were among the passengers to arrive on a flight from Kabul on Thursday.

FIFA said in a statement that the group, which included female players, were deemed to have been “at the highest risk”. It thanked Qatar for its support and for “ensuring the safe passage” of the players and families, read the report.

“The FIFA leadership has been closely coordinating with the government of Qatar since August on the evacuation of the group, and will continue to work closely on the safe evacuation of further members of the sporting family in the future,” it added.

According to the report cycling’s world governing body UCI said on Monday it helped in the evacuation of 165 refugees from Afghanistan which included female cyclists, journalists and human rights campaigners.

The International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said last month that the organisation had helped around 100 members of the “Olympic community” in Afghanistan to leave the country on humanitarian visas, Reuters reported.

Australia evacuated more than 50 female Afghan athletes and their dependents in August, while several players from Afghanistan’s national female youth soccer squad were granted asylum in Portugal last month.

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Andy Flower joins Afghan coaching staff ahead of T20 World Cup

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(Last Updated On: October 9, 2021)

Andy Flower will join the Afghanistan coaching staff which also includes ex-South Africa international Lance Klusener and ex-Australian quick Shaun Tait.

Flower previously coached England between 2009 and 2014, with their 2010 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup glory coming under his tenure.

A statement by the Afghanistan Cricket Board confirmed that Flower had joined the team bubble ahead of the tournament later this month.

Confirming his appointment, ACB chairman Azizullah Fazli said: “We are delighted that Andy has joined ACB. Andy has worked with a number of our players in various franchise competitions and his vast experience will be very beneficial and useful to help the team in the World Cup.”

Flower had a brilliant playing career for Zimbabwe, representing them in 63 Tests and 213 ODIs. Afghanistan hope that this experience will prove vital during their campaign in the UAE. They will start their tournament on October 25 in Sharjah.

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