August 11, 2023

Young, Van Hollen, Congressional Soccer Caucus Urge FIFA to Recognize Afghanistan Women’s Football Team

WASHINGTON –U.S. SenatorsTodd Young (R-Ind.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and the co-chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus sent a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino urging official recognition of the Afghanistan Women’s Football Team (AWT). After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, the team’s players were forced to flee the nation.

“The women of the AWT are in a unique situation, and we hope one day they can return to their homeland to play the sport without restrictions. Until then, they should be afforded the opportunity to represent their country away from home,” the lawmakers wrote.  

In addition to Senators Young and Van Hollen, Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Representatives Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) signed onto the letter.

The full letter is below and here.

Dear President Infantino:

We write to bring to your attention the pressing issue of the Afghanistan Women’s Football Team (AWT) and its lack of recognition by your organization.

Since the Taliban regained national control in Afghanistan, the women of AWT who represented their country on the world stage have been forced to flee their home. The Taliban government in place since 2021 has repressed the female population of Afghanistan by denying them basic freedoms and equality, including the opportunity to attend school, the ability to travel outside of their homes without restrictions, play sports, or work in certain sectors. The players on the women’s team have applied for asylum in foreign countries, namely Australia, and currently watch from the bleachers as other teams are able to do what they are not: proudly play for their country on the world stage.

The AWT players have been brave advocates for their autonomy from the Taliban government in Afghanistan. They have been playing against other clubs in Australia, all while hoping to create a team outside of Afghanistan that can represent their mothers, sisters, and daughters who continue to be repressed by the Taliban government. It is our belief that FIFA should develop a process to allow the members of the team, now exiled, to play in the organization, if not for the future of the beautiful game, then for the important message it sends to women and girls around the world.

Recognizing FIFA’s vision to “protect human rights,” we ask that you allow the AWT to represent every woman and girl trapped under Taliban rule. Allow them to play for their country without returning to the brutality of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Allow freedom and opportunity to prevail in the sport, one that represents so much to those around the world. 

The women of the AWT are in a unique situation, and we hope one day they can return to their homeland to play the sport without restrictions. Until then, they should be afforded the opportunity to represent their country away from home.

We look forward to your response on how you plan to help reinstitute football for the women on the AWT. We hope to see FIFA promote a football that is truly global and accessible for those who need it most, and we urge you to use your role as the President of FIFA to allow the women of Afghanistan to represent themselves on the pitch.

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