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Afghanistan Women captain Shabnam Mobarez on team's evacuation to Australia, their 'unsure' situation and the future

Afghanistan Women captain Shabnam Mobarez has spoken to her team-mates who were evacuated to Australia after the Taliban seized control in August; She says players are looked after but 'unsure' of next step; Mobarez believes "it's almost like [football] is over" for Afghan women

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Afghanistan captain Shabnam Mobarez described seeing her team-mates evacuated from the country as a 'dream come true' but said those left behind will not be allowed play the sport they love

Afghanistan Women captain Shabnam Mobarez tells Sky Sports about her team's 'unsure' situation after they were evacuated to Australia, the terrifying experiences they have been through, and what's next...

Players from the Afghanistan women's national football team were among a group of more than 75 people evacuated after the Taliban seized control of the capital Kabul on August 15.

With the country in crisis following the takeover by the Taliban, the young women were removed from danger thanks to an Australian effort to assist the team in escaping to safety.

Australia had, like many nations, been evacuating its citizens and some of its former staff from its embassy. Around 1,000 people were being evacuated on Australian flights and about 50 women athletes and their dependents were among those rescued and brought to the country.

Mobarez, who resides in the USA, has been in contact with the players - who are still in Australia - and said: "It is very unsure, the situation they are in right now.

"It was a traumatising experience getting out. Now they are trying to get used to this whole normal new life. I am sure they are very confused and in shock because they left family and friends behind.

"They are taken good care of in Australia so I am really happy about that, but they are unsure about what the next step is going to be in their lives."

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FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman explains their part in evacuating the Afghanistan women's football team to Australia

She described the time leading up to them being evacuated as "very tense because of the airport situation - people were being killed, there was a suicide bomb and all this stuff was happening. It’s just terrifying, the experience they’ve been through.

"These are the females we should evacuate in peace, because they deserve to be evacuated because their life is in danger.

"It was a very dangerous situation for them and honestly, I’m so proud of my sisters to just hold it together and just help each and stand together and try to help everybody so nobody is left behind."

'We fail to notice how brave they are'

The Afghan football team was created in 2007 in a country where women playing sport was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban.

Mobarez believes the Taliban takeover now not only puts the future of their football at risk, but the lives of all those who attempt to play it.

She said: "With the current regime, [women] are practically not even allowed to play football. They are not allowed to play the sport that they love.

"It really hurts me because they have been working so hard to give a little bit of joy and a little bit of light for the women in Afghanistan. It’s like in a matter of seconds, all the hard work has been taken away from them."

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Craig Foster explains how he and several others helped secure the safe rescue of a large group of women footballers and other athletes from Afghanistan

Even before the developments in August, Mobarez said she and her team-mates had been fighting just to get on the field.

"The team has been through so many terrifying experiences in the past as well," she said. "It has never been easy for an Afghan female to be an athlete in Afghanistan. It’s just a fact.

"[They are] looked down upon, [they are] assaulted on the street, there has been so many things and so many barriers that the Afghan female athlete has to pass to, for example, just to go to practice. It’s just such a basic thing.

"I think we fail to notice how brave these women of Afghanistan and the female athletes are. We don’t see it in the Western world that we have to go through obstacles just to get to practice, and to the soccer ground just to play football.

"They have been facing it for years and years, every day. And still they show up, they come to practice and they have a passion for the game. Before [the Taliban], they were so brave and in my eyes, they were heroes without wearing any capes. Now they can’t even act upon that.

"They love this game so much that they really wanted to do everything - go through hell - just to get to practice and now that’s been taken away from them.

"It just breaks my heart that they were fighting through so many small battles, now it’s almost like the game is over. Even if they get out of their houses, it is going to be dangerous and they can potentially get killed."

What is next for these women?

Asked what she hopes for the future, Mobarez said: "The best version would be that we can all come together and represent our country outside Afghanistan and that would be a strong image to send to the Taliban that we don’t need to be in the country to represent the Afghanistan we know.

"That would be the best - for us to collect all these players and come together."

But before that, Mobarez says, the evacuated women and girls simply need support.

And FIFPro (the worldwide representative organisation for 65,000 professional footballers) have created a campaign raising money for Afghan women to "provide ongoing support to help them settle and re-orientate themselves, to process the trauma they have experienced over recent weeks, and to rebuild their lives".

Long-term, Mobarez says there is a lot of work to do, but she hopes "that in my lifetime, I will be able to see the women of Afghanistan live free and in peace. That's what I hope for".

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