Photo: Russell Watkins/DFID, Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Malala Yousafzai calls on FIFA to recognize Afghanistan women’s football team

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has shown support for the exiled Afghanistan women’s football team, calling on FIFA to recognize the team on the international level.

Yousafzai said in a post on Sunday that she was inspired by the bravery and determination of Afghanistan’s women’s squad who fleed “near-certain death” after the Taliban overtook power and banned women’s sports.

A recent online petition that has garnered over 166,000 signatures—urging FIFA to recognize the Afghanistan women’s football team—drew Yousafzai to join in and meet the squad in person in Melbourne, where they currently reside.

She indicated that she will “continue to support their campaign to be recognized by FIFA.”

“This is the power of stories and why we must continue to share them. You never know who could be listening.” Yousafzai said in the post.

When the Taliban overtook power in August 2021, the Afghanistan women’s football team was forced to flee the country and resettle in Melbourne, Australia.

The team has not yet been recognized by FIFA to play and participate in international competitions managed by the sport’s international governing body.

Earlier this month, a group of US lawmakers in a letter to FIFA asked for the recognition of the Afghanistan women’s football team.

Last month, a group of more than 100 parliamentarians from the UK, Australia, Portugal, and Italy also wrote to FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, urging him to do more to support the Afghanistan women’s football team.

“We, the players of the Afghanistan women’s national football team, were forced to flee our homeland simply because we played football,” part of the petition reads. “We dream of representing our country at the Women’s World Cup. But, FIFA has repeatedly ignored our pleas to formally recognize our right to play.”

The sport’s international governing body has said that it is “committed to ensuring that all women have the opportunity to participate in football” and that it is “in close contact with the Afghanistan Football Federation to discuss the situation.”