Football for Hope: Why Afghanistan’s first league is so important

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

Elaborating on the work of her non-governmental organization, SAF, Popal says the group is operating in a desperately poor part of Afghanistan but has been able to convince local authorities to let them use a soccer pitch for training free of charge.

“What we are asking for is basic: more than $5,000, they say, to get a running water system to help provide better nutrition,” Popal says.

“We are not receiving assistance from any outside source or international organizations, so we depend on the community’s support for different kinds of development projects.”

Despite the shortfalls, the safe zone opening made it possible for SAF to recruit players on a small scale for a small-scale league.

Khalida Popal is working to return sports to Afghanistan. Credit: PATRICK COCKBURN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Popal says the number of girls playing football in Afghanistan has doubled over the past five years. While football is not Afghanistan’s most popular sport, Popal says SAF players have gained both physical and psychological strength, and brought hope to their communities.

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