The 26 team members took part in their first practice at the “City of Football” complex in the Portuguese capital.
“We were so happy and when we saw the football field we couldn’t believe we could play football again. One of my friends said to me, ‘hey, Banin I can’t sleep. I said, ‘yeah it’s true, really.’ We can continue our education and football again here,” said Omul Banin Ramzi, a 15-year-old Afghan teenage soccer player.
The Portuguese Football Federation took an active role in hosting the players, all of whom were granted asylum by the country’s government, and placing them in their new location in Lisbon.
Omul Banin Ramzi of the youth team added: “When we came here and the Portuguese Football Federation, everyone was very friendly. In Afghanistan they didn’t behave well with us.”
Banin told the news agency Associated Press, he is grateful to be able to play football in Portugal and feels “dangerous” playing his favorite sport under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Banin Ramzi also said he feared for the safety of his parents who were still living in his homeland.
A friend of Banin’s, also 15, Nakisa Amiri, said there was “a feeling of joy” when his team saw the training facility in Lisbon for the first time.
“In Afghanistan we are the national team and we know each other very well. Afghanistan national team players under the age of 17. Some of them are new and like me and Banin, we have three years playing for the national team,” he said.
Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August, there have been concerns about how the group will treat women in the country.
“Sport is not for girls, they can’t do everything boys can do. They say it like that, they can’t even go shopping, they can’t go for walks. people on the street,” said Nakisa Amiri.
His friend Omul Banin Ramzi added: “In our city, everyone knows that I am a football player. Everyone knows it is very dangerous for us. I escaped from the Taliban. Really, the Taliban are very dangerous for us. football players and one day they will kill us in a minute. Me and my family.”
During the previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s, girls and women were denied the right to education and barred from appearing in public life.
“When we were in Kabul city and the Taliban came, we had to run away and hide somewhere, another province, Mazar-i-Sharif province. We hid in that place for 20 days and couldn’t even get out. Only in one group and one room, we ate and slept. We couldn’t even walk, and couldn’t see our family. Half of our family, live in Afghanistan until now. Mom and dad and three younger brothers in Afghanistan. Every day I call, video-call… I came with my older brother and sister,” said Nakisa Amiri.
Omul Banin Ramzi added: “Unfortunately, they are in Afghanistan. My mother and sister are in Afghanistan. Only me with my brother here, or my father and uncle because every player has the right to have a companion to represent him.”
“We see the girls can play better and we are very happy. But when we are in our country, we can’t just smile. Even though we laugh all the time, we cry inside because of the bad situation in our country,” he added. [ps/jm]