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Footballers join #TogetherUnbreakable campaign to help Afghan women

28 September 2021

Professional footballers are among those joining a FIFPRO fundraising campaign to support more than 75 women footballers evacuated from Afghanistan in August.

Merel van Dongen, the Atlético Madrid and Netherlands defender, is lending her support to the women who, fearing for their safety, fled their homes. Maren Mjelde, who plays for Chelsea and Norway, has also contacted FIFPRO to offer assistance.

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The international stars join Afghanistan national team players such as Shabnam Mobarez, Hailai Arghandiwal and Mariam Ruhin who were already living outside the country before the Taliban seized control in August.

The FIFPRO campaign is adopting the #TogetherUnbreakable slogan of the players.

Mobarez said: “My teammates and I will do everything we can to help out. These girls and young women were frightened and extended their hands to us asking for our support and we must do all we can so they have a permanent safe and secure place to stay.”

The global fundraising campaign will help provide support for the rescued Afghan players to settle and rebuild their lives in a new country. Many of them have arrived in Australia after its government helped them escape from the immediate danger they were in as women activists.  

As a sign of respect for the courage of these girls and women, and in solidarity with them and their country, FIFPRO has pledged to match the first $25,000 raised in individual donations.

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Maren Mjelde (left) and Merel van Dongen (right)

Van Dongen said: “These women are not just our sister footballers but have been brave leaders for women's rights and need our ongoing support. “We are with them in this next part of their journey to rebuild their lives, and I hope others will join us in this fundraising effort.”

Mjelde said: “My heart goes out to these women and those who have been left behind in Afghanistan. It’s important that the international community helps all of them. For those who were evacuated, let’s give them a hand as they start their lives again.”

FIFPRO is establishing a governance committee including human rights activists and lawyers to manage the funds and liaise with the evacuated players and their families.

Donations will be used to help players readjust to their new lives, provide them with basic needs including housing, relocation and psychological help.

Sarah Gregorius, FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations for Women’s Football, said: “There has been an incredible outpouring of support from the international football community, including players and fans. So many people have come to us and asked what they can do. This fundraising campaign is one small way of helping”