Hear them roar: Afghan female football fans show their support

In this photograph taken on September 21, 2017, Afghan football fans watch a Roshan Afghan premiere league match between Toofan Harirod and Simorgh Alborz at the Afghanistan Football Federation stadium in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2017
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Hear them roar: Afghan female football fans show their support

KABUL: Shiba Rahimi, a demure pale pink hijab covering her hair, sits forward in her seat and does a shrill two-finger whistle at the male footballers darting around the all-weather field in Kabul.
The university student is one of dozens of football-mad women sitting in the female section of the Afghan capital’s main stadium enjoying a rare opportunity to have fun in public in patriarchal Afghanistan.
“Women are not harassed or bothered by anyone here. It is a good place for women,” 21-year-old Rahimi tells AFP, as she sits with her family watching the Afghan Premier League (APL) clash between Toofan Harirod and Simorgh Alborz.
A cross section of women — students, professionals and grandmothers — hold red “Goaaal!” posters and wave Afghan national flags as they scream the names of their favorite team, their faces beaming.
Women, some partially veiled to only show their eyes, trickle into the stadium throughout the game. To reach their segregated seating next to the VIP section they must walk past a men’s stand under the gaze of scores of eyes.
It is a scene that would have been unthinkable during the Taliban’s repressive and misogynistic regime when women were largely confined to their homes and, when they did venture outside with a male escort, hidden from view under burqas.
The ground where the game is under way is close to the old stadium where matches held under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule featured public executions with criminals hanged or shot and thieves’ hands cut off.
In the sixteen years since the Taliban was toppled by a US-led invasion, women have been allowed to attend men’s matches and even play the sport.
Only a few female supporters went to games in the beginning but as memories of the Taliban years faded and women footballers and fans appeared more frequently on television they began showing up in greater numbers — but only with the permission of their husbands and families.
Still, that is greater freedom than women in some other Muslim countries, such as neighboring Iran and Saudi Arabia, enjoy.
Morsal Sadat is one of the lucky ones. The 16-year-old high school student says her family lets her play and watch football.
“I came here to watch and learn some new tricks from our players,” Sadat says.
Despite being vastly outnumbered by men in the 6,500-seat stadium, the enthusiastic female fans overshadow their male counterparts with their exuberant support.
The men do not appear bothered by their female counterparts — some even use their proximity to girls to flirt through the barrier.
Afghanistan has made strides to promote female football — it has a national side and three years ago launched its first all-women’s football league that ran in parallel with the men’s APL.
But this year the female teams were sidelined by a lack of funding.
Security is a major concern for spectators attending sporting venues in Afghanistan where large gatherings of any kind are often targeted.
During last month’s Shpageeza Cricket League a suicide bomber blew himself up meters from the stadium, killing three people.
But in a country where daily life is often interrupted by deadly attacks by insurgents the female football fans say they refuse to be intimidated into staying home.
Khatira Ahmadi, 20, says: “It is true that there is widespread insecurity in Afghanistan, and we witness one blast or two blasts every day, but we don’t get frightened. (We) cannot ignore the sport we love.”


Joe Root’s century seals England series win over India, maintains No. 1 ODI ranking

Updated 17 July 2018
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Joe Root’s century seals England series win over India, maintains No. 1 ODI ranking

  • This was Root’s second unbeaten century in successive innings
  • Joe Root became England’s leading one-day international century-maker

LEEDS: Joe Root became England’s leading one-day international century-maker as an innings of exactly 100 not out on his Headingley home ground saw the hosts to an eight-wicket victory over India on Tuesday and a 2-1 series win.
This was Root’s second unbeaten century in successive innings after his 113 not out helped England level the three-match contest with an 86-run win at Lord’s on Saturday.
This latest hundred was also Test skipper Root’s 13th in ODIs, taking him past the England record of 12 he had previously shared with Marcus Trescothick.
Tuesday saw Root and one-day captain Eoin Morgan (88 not out) share an unbroken third-wicket stand of 186 as England, first in the ODI rankings to their opponents’ second, ended India’s run of nine straight bilateral series wins in style.
England, who will be bidding to win the World Cup for the first time when they stage next year’s edition, had said they would treat Tuesday’s match as a dress rehearsal for a winner-takes-all game at the showpiece tournament.
And that made the comprehensive manner of their victory all the more satisfying for Morgan’s men.
It was England’s bowlers who set up this win, with Adil Rashid and David Willey, two of the five Yorkshire cricketers in their XI, taking three wickets apiece.
But, after left-arm quick Willey had kept things tight early on, it was leg-spinner Rashid who did significant damage by taking two wickets in an over.
He bowled India captain and star batsman Virat Kohli (71), as well as dismissing Suresh Raina, on his way to three for 49 in a maximum 10 overs.
Willey, who took three for 40 in nine overs, received excellent new-ball support from Durham quick Mark Wood (one for 30).
Root, who was dropped from the final match of England’s preceding 2-1 Twenty20 series loss, told Sky Sports: “It feels fantastic.
“To come into a big series like this and perform how we have as a side is great.”
Morgan added: “I think we were outstanding. I think the tone was set by the bowlers early on, David Willey and Mark Wood were on the money. From that point there was no let up.”
Meanwhile Kohli accepted his side had been outplayed.
“I thought we were never on the mark as far as runs on the board were concerned, we were 25-30 short, and England were really clinical with the bat and in the field as well,” he said.
After Morgan won the toss, Rohit Sharma, who scored a superb century during India’s eight-wicket win in the series-opener at Trent Bridge, struggled to make two off 18 balls, his innings ending when he flicked Willey to Wood at deep square leg.
Opening partner Shikhar Dhawan made a fluent 44 before was run out by Stokes’s direct hit.
Dinesh Karthik, preferred to KL Rahul for this match, then made 21 before he was bowled between bat and pad by Rashid.
Kohli pressed on, however, completing a 55-ball fifty before Rashid struck twice in six balls as India slumped to 158 for five.
He bowled Kohli with a superb leg-break and had Raina caught low at leg-slip by Root.
James Vince, called up in place of the injured Jason Roy cut the first ball of England’s reply, from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for four.
Vince’s frustrating England career has seen him repeatedly get out on Tuesday he fell for a run-a-ball 27, although it needed a brilliant one-handed take by wicket-keeper Dhoni, from Hardik Pandya’s throw, to run him out.
But by then England were 74 for two inside 10 overs, well above the required run-rate.
Root, stumped off a Yuzvendra Chahal no-ball on 69, went to his century when he pulled Pandya through midwicket for his 10th four in 120 balls as England won with 33 deliveries to spare.
An elated Root celebrated by dropping his bat to the ground — the ‘mic drop’ gesture more associated with rock stars and stand-up comedians than cricketers.