UK Parliament backs Malala’s call urging FIFA to support Afghan football team

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai delivers a speech during the World Assembly for Women (WAW) in Tokyo on March 23, 2019. — AFP

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai has termed Afghanistan’s football team a symbol of courage and resistance as she joined more than 100 UK lawmakers’ call urging the FIFA president to officially recognise exiled Afghan women’s team.

“As the Taliban erases women from all public life, the Afghan women’s football team remains a symbol of courage and resistance for their country,” she wrote on her official Twitter handle on Wednesday.

The Nobel prize winner said she joined Afghanistan women’s national team founder Khalida Popal and over 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”.

Her statement comes as more than 100 parliamentarians have written to FIFA President Gianni Infantino to do more to support exiled Afghan female footballers and ensure Afghan women are able to compete on the international stage, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

The letter backs a call made by Malala and Popal in January this year.

Malala and Popal have co-written the letter with Julie Elliott, the MP for Sunderland Central, and it has been signed by 76 members of the UK parliament and parliamentarians from Australia, Portugal and Italy.

It calls on the governing body to do more to push back against restrictions placed on Afghan women’s participation in sports.

Elliott said: “The right to play football, and the right to compete, should be protected. FIFA should uphold their commitments to equality, and I believe that FIFA should be doing much more to support these women to regain their place on the world stage.

“The support that this letter has got from colleagues across the house, and across the world, shows the widespread support for the women of Afghanistan, both those in exile, and those still living in the country, and their right to live how they choose.”

During the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in 2021 the senior women’s national team was evacuated to Australia, the country co-hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand.

They continue to function as a team, supported by Melbourne Victory, and compete in the seventh tier as Melbourne Victory FC AWT.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women have been banned from playing sport and the national team have not been formally recognised and able to compete in international competition.

Fifa has said that “the selection of players and teams representing a member association is considered an internal affair”.

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