How Afghanistan women’s football teammade it to Australia.
The first time I met with them, they were training in a compound near Kabul, surrounded by concrete barriers and high wire fences. The players worked as a group, wearing green and yellow tops and shorts. They were working on the road, where they were playing in front of a packed stadium, in understrength conditions. When I went to look for them later, they had moved on to a training ground at the other side of the city, where they completed their training with a team of international sports coaches. They were doing all the drills, but their coaches wouldn’t explain why they weren’t going forward with all the rest of their team to be part of the final squad.
A few days before the Afghanistan women’s team was due to arrive in Australia for international football games, many of the players were called in for an extra training session. Their coach explained to me how they had put together a plan to win back their confidence. The strategy would be to train under better conditions than they had for many years. They needed to prepare themselves to win the games that would qualify them for the senior national team.
They spent three months in the camp in the north of the country, completing more training sessions, training their bodies and minds. By the time they arrived in Australia to play their first match, they were much more focused. For the whole month before the games, they were given one more training session, but then they were off with the national team.
When they arrived in Australia, they were a little sad and disappointed not to be playing for their country, but they knew the next opportunity would come. They were now the first women’s national football team to play in Australia for more than 40 years.
What’s in a name?
When the women’s national football team was formed in 1958, the name was officially selected when the team played their first match, against Hungary in Brisbane, on 29 September in what was then a very wet stadium.
The women’s team