Khalida Popal: Afghan football legend says Taliban told her she had to dress like ‘before’

Khalida Popal says she was “violated every day of my life” when she lived in Afghanistan

Khalida Popal, the first Afghan footballer to play at an international game, said she was “violated every day of my life” in the Taliban’s five-year rule.

“Their demands were from me if I wanted to stay alive,” she said at her first interview since stepping down as leader of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF).

“They said I had to look like I did before, dress like this and act like this.”

Popal, who played at her national team’s first ever match in the 1970s, said she became disillusioned with Afghan football during the 1990s as the country descended into war.

“I stopped playing and I never returned to play football again until the Taliban came to power and things started getting worse,” said Popal, who led the AFF to the Women’s Asian Cup on home soil in 2011.

“When I came to Afghanistan to make a new life, I didn’t expect I would be raped every day, kidnapped every day, assaulted every day and not get the justice that I deserved.

“The problem is people don’t see this and they don’t believe that what I am saying is true, it’s heartbreaking for me.”

Popal, who is part of a delegation advising the governing body, said she believed she and the many other women who have survived abuse should be “given recognition for their bravery”.

“I just want to do something for these women and let them know that they are the inspiration,” she said.

“They have endured much more than we have.

“We need to stand together and do whatever we can to make this world better.”

She added that there had been time to talk about what needed to be done, but that “now we need to do something”.

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