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Election to take place in a few weeks, and will feature 15 teams made up of more than 2,000 women
Afghan women’s soccer team escapes Taliban control, thanks to some powerful teammates
Afghanistan’s women’s soccer team are celebrating after security forces worked with them to turn around the fortunes of the national team, which has come under Taliban control.
In the lead-up to elections, scheduled for 19 October, the female players were keeping a close eye on the teams of men to see how their determination – and those of a handful of fighters – had kept the men’s side in the sport.
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“We were absolutely ready for the Taliban to come and destroy the Afghanistan national soccer team,” said Mehesh Gul, who had been in the squad for 20 years.
All 15 teams of women have qualified for the World Cup which is to be held in France in June. Each team comprises 85 women, mostly from Kabul.
Most women are in school.
A few of the teams were damaged by the Taliban.
In one case, a team from Badakhshan province was forced to play on a football pitch away from its home town. There, in June, Afghan security forces recaptured control of the team, who are now in the capital.
The team provided the security force with early morning firing targets and coordinates for matches in the hope of holding their own, despite their country’s insecurity.
“We gathered intelligence about [the Taliban] all year,” said Fur Rahman, the team’s technical director.
“They never attack us,” he said. “They would have attacked every single team, including the men’s national team.”
The men’s team regularly plays its matches against teams from nearby countries, such as Iran and Pakistan.
“The day they got control of this country, they would have destroyed Afghanistan national soccer team,” Rahman said.
“But they cannot.”
The Afghan government has struggled to secure the Afghan capital. Taliban fighters launched an attack on Kabul airport just over a week ago.
The Taliban hit the Afghan national football team in 2013, killing eight and wounding 11.
Election Commission officials were in an impossible situation, said Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the commission.
“Taliban do not want the women to take part in the elections,” he said.
“Security forces had to save the country.”
The women’s team were in a better position, he said.
The election will be held in three phases, during which voting will be held in 40 polling stations in the city of Kabul.
Female voters are a rare sight in the country, where violence against women is rife.
But elections can bring change.
“We had strong female players,” said Gul. “I don’t believe Taliban can win against them.”
Kabul University says three women’s teams will be in the capital for the first time, but the first round of voting is to be held outside.
After the first round, voters will be asked to cast their ballot by ballot papers.
In the presidential elections in 2009, most polling stations were set up outside.
Five of the ballots have been boycotted by the Taliban because of their findings that the electoral system does not ensure equal representation for women.