President of the International Football Association (FIFA) Gianni Infantino has praised the efforts of the State of Qatar, led by H.H. the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to evacuate more than 150 people from Afghanistan, including female football players along with their families.
This came during the FIFA President's visit to a compound in the capital, Doha, where the State of Qatar, in cooperation with FIFA and the Afghan Football Association, hosted more than 150 Afghan refugees who were in grave danger because of their connection to women's sports.
In a press statement, Infantino said these girls and their families are safe inside this compound, which was built in preparation for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 next year.
He added that the International Football Federation will continue to knock on all doors around the world to help Afghans, expressing the hope that his call would be heeded and doors would be opened to these girls.
Among the people evacuated to the compound were players from the Afghan women's national under-23, 17 and 15-year-old teams with their family members, as well as match referees, administrators, and women's soccer coaches.
The FIFA President expressed his deep appreciation for Doha's efforts in this regard, as the State of Qatar has evacuated more than 70,000 people since last August, calling on the global football community and governments to support and assist Afghan refugees in facing the escalating humanitarian crisis by extending a hand of assistance to families displaced from their homeland because of their association with women's sports.
Infantino also thanked Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who agreed to receive the first batch of refugees and provide footballers and their families with a temporary settlement to enable FIFA to evacuate more, noting the actual need for help from more countries, governments, and football family members is not just by saying and talking about solidarity.
Afghani Fadhil Muhammad Shehab, Secretary-General of the Asian Football Confederation, who was heavily involved in promoting and developing women's football across his country was also among those evacuated to the Qatari complex, in addition to the lawyers who worked on Keramuddin Karim's mistreatment case that led to the ex-Afghan Football Association president being banned for life, Their family members were also evacuated in order to keep them safe.
In addition to those associated with football, FIFA and the Afghan Basketball Association have assisted in the evacuation of more than 30 people associated with women's basketball in Afghanistan, including 19 members of the women's national and regional teams, all of whom are now safe in the Doha complex.
"We often say that football gives hope, and today, on the ground, we see that the ability to build a new life is something that words cannot match. What we are doing is real and tangible hope for these girls and their families. I am very touched by being here in Qatar, as I am very happy that we have been able to help so many footballers and so many girls out of Afghanistan, and we will strive to do more in the future."
FIFA intends to provide assistance to the State of Qatar to evacuate more girls, women, and others associated with women's sports in the coming weeks.
The process over the past two months has been led by Joyce Cook is FIFA's Chief Education and Social Responsibility Officer. Speaking from Doha, she expressed her admiration for all the participants and for what everyone, involved in the process, has done. She also praised the strength of character displayed by the young women and girls.
"Our President and Secretary-General have asked me to lead our incredible collective effort, and we would not have succeeded without our friends in Qatar," said Joyce Cook.
She added that every person who comes close to a tragedy to such an extent, cannot help but feel the magnitude of the big responsibility, especially in light of meeting with girls and listening to their stories which show heartbreak and loss.
"This is a humanitarian story and a human effort with people from everywhere who care deeply for these young women and girls who are beginning their journey now - this story is not over yet - and I take this opportunity to repeat what the FIFA President said: We cannot do this on our own - we need governments around the world to provide a lasting settlement for our players and give them a chance to rebuild their still-young lives," she said.
Source: Qatar News Agency
Cover image credit: Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/File photo
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