Afghan Soccer Girls
Shamila Kohestani and Roia Ahmad will accept this years Arthur Ashe Courage award at ESPN’s ESPY award ceremony. The teenagers were two of many girls in Afghanistan who played soccer and encouraged other girls to join in.
In 2004, the 16 and 18 year old were part of group from Afghanistan who came to the US as part of the “Youth Sport Exchange Program.” The girls were sent to soccer camp where they learned how to play the game. They then went home and started up teams in Kabul.
Under the Taliban, girls were not allowed to go to school let alone play sports. Although things have improved, it’s still dangerous times for females who want to carve out a place in non-traditional roles. They may have learned to play soccer, but they still have to overcome cultural restrictions and a reluctance to let girls play. The girls had problems finding places to have games and they had to wear clothing covering them from head to toe.
Still they persist! There are now 15 teams in Kabul. The award is given to those whose “contributions transcend sports”. These young women certainly fit the role!