A Huge Effort Is Underway To Rescue Afghanistan’s Girls Soccer Team - Women's Health

A Huge Effort Is Underway To Rescue Afghanistan’s Girls Soccer Team

Aged 14-16, the 26 girls that make up Afghanistan’s soccer team are seen as advocates for female empowerment.

by | Sep 2, 2021

The world has watched with collective mourning as news comes out of Afghanistan: news of people clambering onto aircrafts in a desperate bid to leave their country; of painters taking a white wash of acrylic over ads depicting women; of women and girls around the country fearing for their lives and all they had envisioned for their future. As the Taliban has come to take control of Afghanistan, many fear that women’s rights will soon disappear, too. Despite tireless campaigns over the last few decades to see them granted greater rights and the establishment of the 2009 Eliminate of Violence Against Women Law to see legal protection given to women and girls from domestic violence, the reality is that already we’ve seen women suffer under Taliban rule. And for the 26 young women who make up the country’s girls soccer team, theirs is a desperate bid to make it out as the sport they love now positions their lives as one in danger. 

An international effort is now underway to evacuate the members of Afghanistan’s national girls soccer team, along with their family members and soccer federation staff. Plans to evacuate the country were derailed when a suicide bombing took place at Kabul airport, killing 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members during an airlift. Frightened and desperate to escape Taliban rule, the girls worry if efforts from U.S. military and intelligence officials, along with allies and humanitarian groups can see the national team and their loved ones reach safety. 

In an interview with Huff Post, Robert McCreary, a former congressional chief of staff and White House official under President George W. Bush who has worked with special forces in Afghanistan, noted: “They’re just unbelievably young ladies who should be playing in the backyard, playing on the swing set, playing with their friends, and here they’re in a very bad situation for doing nothing more than playing soccer.” He added, “We need to do everything that we can to protect them, to get them to a safe situation.”

While some members of the Afghan women’s team were evacuated to Australia last week, many fear the girls and their families will be targeted by the Taliban as, under their rule, women and girls are forbidden to play sports. Aside from being sportswomen, the team is also one comprised of advocates, with many championing women’s rights and participation in activities like sport. 

In recent days, there have been at least five recent attempts to rescue the girls as they were moved around for their safety. They were close to evacuation when the suicide bombing took place. Now, complicating the rescue even further, is the fact that many don’t have passports or other necessary documentation to board flights from Kabul. The operation has since been called Operation Soccer Balls and it’s hoped other countries will aid such efforts, and allow the girls to settle in the US. Australia, France and Qatar have also expressed interest in helping. 

“We can put a protective bubble around these women and young girls…I really believe the world will stand up and take notice and have a lot of offers to take them in and host them,” said McCreary. 

As Nic McKinley, a CIA and Air Force veteran who founded Dallas-based DeliverFund, a non-profit that’s secured housing for Afghan families, explains, more countries need to assist in helping relocate the girls to ensure their safety. “What about the little girl who just wants to kick a ball around a field and wants to do that well, and has worked hard to do that at a world class level who finds herself suddenly in jeopardy only because she just wanted to play a sport and had a passion for playing that sport?” 

He added, “The only thing that they had done wrong in the eyes of the Taliban…is the fact that they were born girls and they had the audacity to dream of doing something.”

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

Recommended to you

8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 


Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.defineSlot(gamData.adUnit, [300, 250], 'gam_midarticle_pos2_2') .defineSizeMapping(gamData.sizeMap.midarticle) .setTargeting('pos', '2') .addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.display('gam_midarticle_pos2_2'); });

New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 


Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 


Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 


Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?