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First Official Training Camp For The Afghanistan Women’s Football National Team

The Afghanistan women’s national team held its first ever official training camp under the watchful eye of German coach Klaus Stark at the Ruit sports school in Ostfildern (Germany) from 21 January to 1 February – and the 18 young women were finally able to play football without fear of persecution. “Just playing in Afghanistan is danger¬ous. There are people who don’t like to see women playing football. Any day could be your last. We pray that the Taliban never think about stopping us, but until now, it has been worth taking that risk,” says Stark about his dangerous work in Kabul. Stark, a roving coach employed by the German football association (DFB), has been in Kabul for four years as part of a project launched in 2003 by the Ger¬man Olympic sport federation (DOSB), the German government and the DFB. Stark is working wonders under trying conditions, forever having to improvise as the country’s sporting infrastructure has been destroyed during 30 years of conflict. As if that were not enough, women do not exactly have an easy life in Afghanistan, and up until the end of Taliban rule in 2001, they were not even allowed to venture out alone. “We play on international armed forces territory, always behind closed doors. We had a lot of problems at the start because fathers often didn’t allow their daughters to play. But now parents are starting to be proud of their girls,” ex¬plains Stark, who is largely responsible for the fact that there are already 22 teams in and around Kabul. Their courage is not boundless, how¬ever. “It all depends on the situation. Whenever there are attacks and the mood in the city darkens, then of course families don’t want to let their daughters play football,” says Stark, who has taken a temporary time-out from his position in view of the cur¬rent situation in Afghanistan: “There have been threats of attacks so I will keep a close eye on the situation over the next few months and then decide whether to go back.” The 54-year-old’s caution is hardly sur¬prising. “You are safest if don’t stand out from the crowd, “he says. “That’s why I don’t have a bodyguard.” Stark has also seen the dangers of Kabul at first hand, explaining that he was once in an internet cafe that was blown up just 24 hours later.
Although fraught with danger, the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) is determined to continue its work. “Families allow their daughters to play football because the girls stand up for themselves. It’s all about women ex¬ercising their rights. That is why this trip to Germany is also a symbol of their freedom,” explained AFF Presi¬dent Keramuddin Karim.