Soccer officials are liaising with governments to try to evacuate players from Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control, the world players’ union said Friday.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of female players who have spoken up for women’s rights and against the Taliban.
“As a champion of activists, we are greatly concerned about those athletes who have, for many years, been outspoken advocates for improved human rights in the country,” world players’ union FIFPRO said on Twitter. “Over the past few days, FIFPRO has been liaising with governments to establish an evacuation plan for athletes at risk. Central to this rescue effort, is the ambition to bring as many people to safety as possible.”
The Afghan government fell much faster than publicly anticipated by the United States, allowing the Taliban to take back control of Kabul on Sunday after 20 years.
Multiple people were killed when hundreds of Afghan civilians desperate to leave the country swarmed a C-17 cargo plane as it was attempting to take off from Kabul airport on Monday. The U.S. Air Force said human remains were found in the plane’s wheel well after it landed at al-Udeid Air Base in the Gulf state of Qatar.
A teenage male footballer is reported to have been among the victims, according to a post by Afghanistan’s sports federation on a verified Facebook page. Tributes have been paid more widely.
“FIFA has been shocked and saddened by the tragic death of Zaki Anwari, a former under-17 Afghanistan national youth team player,” world soccer’s governing body said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences are with Zaki’s family and loved ones.”
Calling the situation “unstable and very worrying,” FIFA said it was in contact with the Afghanistan Football Federation and was receiving updates from players.
“We are supporting them through this difficult time,” FIFA said.