How Afghanistan women’s football teammade it to Australia, BBC Sport’s Laura MacLean reports
“We have come a long way!” A proud woman in her 20s, wearing a headscarf and the team’s team-uniform of light blue shorts and a white vest, takes a moment to stand and watch her team-mates, all girls aged 16 to 18, strut and strut on the pitch in front of her.
“I am happy to be here,” she says. “But we need more training to make an impact on the game. I am not happy we did not get to play Australia in a friendly, we got stuck in the game.”
This is the story of how Afghanistan women’s football team made it to Australia, and also the story of how they will represent their nation at the 2020 AFC Under-20 Women’s Championship.
How Afghanistan women’s football team made it to Australia
A woman in a green headscarf looks down at the pitch after Afghanistan women’s football team make their way to the Australia v USA women’s football match.
In May, the Afghan women’s national team, with support from the Australian government, travelled to Sydney to take part in the AFC Under-20 Women’s Championship. Their country made it through to the semis, where they were pitted against Australia in a warm-up match and lost 2-0.
The loss was a crushing blow for a nation that had been celebrating the return of peace after a war that lasted more than 17 years. Afghanistan had suffered from regular conflict with the Taliban for years and the conflict was expected to continue.
But it turned out that the war was over. In October last year, a new government took power under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani.
“When you are in the middle of that war and you have a new government, when you have a new constitution, there is a tremendous sense of pride and excitement with respect to the fact that the country is back on track,” says the Australian prime minister at a news conference.
After a tense few months of uncertainty following the election, the Afghanistan women’s football team stepped out to face Australia in the match on the weekend of 16 to 18 October. “To have an opportunity to play in front of our own people so to speak – well it was something I had been looking forward to for a long time