Ex-Afghan football captain who fled for Pakistan speaks of ‘serious problem’

Former Afghan national football captain Khalida Popal has told the BBC of the dangers she faces in Afghanistan after becoming the first female footballer to play in an international tournament. Popal won the Asia…

Ex-Afghan football captain who fled for Pakistan speaks of 'serious problem'

Former Afghan national football captain Khalida Popal has told the BBC of the dangers she faces in Afghanistan after becoming the first female footballer to play in an international tournament. Popal won the Asia Women’s Cup in the 1980s for her country, but her career was cut short by the Taliban’s takeover in 1996. She says she was beaten and raped before being thrown out of the club.

She tells the BBC she had to flee the country and was hiding in the mountains in Pakistan with other women in 2001.

“I think it is time that a lot of people are hearing the other side, that this is not just one crazy man [Taliban leader Mullah Omar]. This is quite a serious problem in our country,” Popal told the BBC’s Pop Tv programme.

“I don’t understand why this war is going on,” Popal said. “Why don’t we have peace? Why don’t we have a proper government? It’s very difficult.”

Popal played in the round-of-16 game of the women’s event at the Berlin 1972 Olympics before her own participation was cut short. “One time I was with my friend. We were watching a football match and some boys dressed in military clothes came up to us. They grabbed me and put me in their car, and drove me away,” she said.

In 1999, Popal was the sole player selected by the Afghan women’s team to play in the 1998 World Cup, losing to Brazil.

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