Footballer Salima loves to play, and she wants to play at home in Afghanistan

What is your position as a female football player in Afghanistan?

We are not allowed to play football unless we have received special permission from the government. We used to play every summer and winter against teams from outside of the country, as we think that football is part of our national heritage and must remain part of our national identity. We never give up in the belief that the people of Afghanistan respect us for the courage that we have shown in our football.

What is your interest and vision for women’s football in Afghanistan?

This year we hope to attract more spectators for the first time by making a home game in Afghanistan’s main stadium in Kabul. Every team in the national league played a home game in the foreign-run arenas until 2016, when the Taliban regime threatened to pull the country out of international football. We hope our ladies will have the chance to make a name for themselves at home.

Do you have any special equipment that you need to play football?

At the moment, I don’t. I used to play with a padded football and boots, which were cheap compared to today’s prices. But now I have to pay more attention to my body, to ensure my performance. The value of the football has also diminished. The men’s league is more skilled than ours.

Have you had any special complications or challenges in your line of work?

Following Taliban rule, we used to need special permission to join the national league because girls were not allowed to attend men’s matches in the closed arenas of foreign-run stadiums. We were threatened that we would not be able to get back home. Fortunately, the government allowed us to play every season. That is the reason why I am not stressed out.

Is Afghanistan an unsafe place for women?

Yes, we have lived with the insecurity for more than 30 years, so I would not recommend visiting us as tourists. Afghanistan needs to be developed as a country, which means we need peace. The Taliban has yet to show any signs of wanting peace.

What advice would you give to young girls in your country who want to achieve success?

I would urge the girls of Afghanistan to be patient and believe in themselves. The things that kept me going are all in the past and now I hope I can continue to work with the Taliban to establish peace in our country.

Do you think that a woman should live a good life outside the home?

Afghan women should also lead better lives as daughters, wives and mothers. Their husbands and fathers should tell them to carry out the tasks of their own families and communities to further the cause of development in our country.

Editor’s note: Editor-in-chief of The New York Times Maggie Haberman is one of The New York Times’ contributing writers on women’s issues.

Related: https://www.nytimes.com/entertainment/football/2018/10/13/tackling-soccer-in-afghanistan/

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