AVEZZANO, Italy — Two days just after Taliban fighters seized Herat, Afghanistan’s third-premier metropolis, the Italian journalist Stefano Liberti been given a information by means of Fb: “Hi sir, we are in hassle. Can you aid us?”
The information past thirty day period came from Susan, 21, the former captain of Bastan, a women’s soccer group that experienced at the time been the matter of a documentary by Mr. Liberti and his colleague Mario Poeta.
“Football is like food items to me,” Susan would say later, and the dread that she could by no means engage in again beneath Taliban rule, “made me really feel as though I was dead.” Like some others interviewed in this short article, only her initially name is made use of to defend her identity.
Thirteen times immediately after she built contact with Mr. Liberti, Susan arrived in Italy alongside with two of her teammates, their coach and various household users. They touched down at Rome’s primary airport after a flight built probable by the two journalists, a Florence-based mostly NGO, a number of Italian lawmakers and officials in the Italian Protection and International Ministries.
The Herat group, 16 people in all, transited through a tent camp operate by the Italian Pink Cross in Avezzano, in the Apennine Mountains, where more than 1,400 Afghans evacuated to Italy have quarantined in current months.
Like so lots of Afghans, the players remaining at the rear of the lives they experienced created in buy to make the excursion. Susan halted her college research in English literature to leave the nation with her mom and dad, two sisters and a brother.
Gals had been banned from sports in the course of the very first Taliban era. Even after the group was ousted from ability in 2001, participating in sports ongoing to be a obstacle for Afghan women of all ages, and for the men who assisted them.
In “Herat Soccer Club” the journalists’ 2017 documentary about the crew, Najibullah, the coach, stated that he had been repeatedly threatened by the Taliban for coaching young females.
The Taliban’s return to electric power has raised fears not only that restrictions on sports will be reimposed, but also that the feminine athletes who emerged in the previous 20 many years will be subject matter to reprisals.
Khalida Popal, the previous captain of the national women’s group who remaining Afghanistan in 2011 and now lives in Copenhagen, applied social and mainstream media last month to suggest ladies who’d performed athletics in Afghanistan to shut down their social media accounts, eliminate any on the web presence and even melt away their uniforms.
“They have no one to go to, to seek out protection, to question for assist if they are in danger,” she said in an interview with Reuters.
A different Herat player, Fatema, 19, also remaining guiding her university studies, in general public administration and coverage. She arrived in Italy with a brother, but her father fell sick whilst they tried out to get by the crowds at the Kabul airport, so he and her mother remained powering.
“They said to me, ‘You go, go for your long run, for soccer, for your instruction,’” Fatema stated.
“Playing football will make me sense highly effective and an case in point for other ladies, to show that you can do just about anything you want to do,” Fatema explained. She expressed hope that would be the case in Italy, also. “I want to make it my nation now,” she explained.
The oldest of the three players, Maryam, 23, had by now gained a degree in administration and had worked as a driving faculty instructor in Herat. She observed herself as a function design, inspiring young females by example “because of football, due to the fact of driving.”
“I was an lively member of modern society,” Maryam stated, a job she was selected she could not have underneath the Taliban.
Maryam was the only workforce member to arrive in Italy alone, even though she reported she was hoping that her loved ones would sign up for her. “It’s tricky for me to smile,” she reported. “But I hope my upcoming will be good, surely better than below the Taliban.”
The players say that several of their Herat teammates are nonetheless in Kabul, hoping to locate transit to Australia, where by some players on Afghanistan’s women’s national staff have been evacuated.
Past Friday, the 3 women and their family members were relocated to the Italian city of Florence. In Italy, the national soccer federation, some soccer clubs and the captain of the national crew, Sara Gama, have available their support to the youthful Afghan players.
“There’s been a large amount of solidarity,” Mr. Liberti, the documentary maker, explained.
And on a warm afternoon previous week, Fatema and Maryam did one thing they experienced never accomplished ahead of: They kicked a ball all around with a couple of boys.
Requested how it felt, Maryam grinned broadly and gave a thumbs up.
“It felt superior,” additional Fatema. “People didn’t appear at us as though we had finished anything wrong.”