US football star Alex Morgan has voiced her support for athletes in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country.
Morgan shared a message of support on Twitter, posting a photo with the words “Save Afghan Athletes” against the colours of Afghanistan’s national flag.
The 32-year-old shared the image a week after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan by capturing the capital city Kabul. The group previously had control of the country from 1996 until 2001, and imposed its own strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law, which severely restricted the freedoms of women.
As a result, there have been serious concerns about the safety of female athletes in Afghanistan. Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afghan women’s football team, revealed last week that players were “desperate” and “hiding away” from the Taliban.
A campaign was subsequently launched to evacuate the country’s female athletes. It was reported yesterday that more than 75 members of the national women’s football team were able to flee Kabul and travel to Australia.
Global players union Fifpro had been in discussion with several Governments to ensure the safe evacuation of players, with the route to Australia developing about four days ago. The organisation worked with former team coaches Kelly Lindsey, Haley Carter and Popal to secure player visas, and is continuing efforts to bring others to safety.
International Paralympic Committee spokesperson Craig Spence also confirmed Afghanistan’s two Paralympic athletes, Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rosouli, had been evacuated from the country.
“I read six different news reports and they claimed they were in four different countries,” he said. “They are no longer in Afghanistan, that is what I can confirm. I am not going to say where they are.
“This is not about sport, it is about human life. They have been through a very traumatic experience. We are not communicating with them directly. We are interested in their health and well-being so we are being kept in the loop and it is good to hear that they are out of Afghanistan and they are safe.”
Khudadadi was due to be Afghanistan’s first female Paralympian at Tokyo 2020, after the 23-year-old was awarded a wildcard in the Para-taekwondo K44 event. She was unable to travel to the Japanese capital with compatriot Rosouli after airports in Afghanistan were shut.
With many athletes still in danger in Afghanistan, Morgan’s social media post will raise awareness of the plight of many Afghan sportswomen and pile on pressure on Governments to increase evacuation efforts.
The striker, who enjoyed a short stint last year at Women’s Super League side Tottenham Hotspur, has often been outspoken on human rights issues.
She has been a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter, posting last year: “We love our country, and it is a true honour to represent America. It is also our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms that our country was founded on extend to everyone.”