How Afghanistan women’s football teammade it to Australia for the first time
Brigitte Stassen is one of a handful of Afghan players on the Afghanistan women’s national football team, and one of only two women to play for the national team (alongside Rina Zayat).
“I didn’t expect that all my dreams come true. I didn’t know what they were capable, only the talent. I never thought of it that it will be a career. I thought of me as a sportswoman, a hobby. I didn’t think of this [at the] first stage,” Stassen says about how she made the decision to take the leap.
In 2014, Stassen travelled with the football team to Perth, Australia for the Women’s World Cup (WFC). She says the experience was extremely rewarding.
“The team showed such a great attitude in the Australian soil. In a country with a population of only 300,000, it shows how passionate they are about football.”
The team was made up mostly of girls and young women from Afghanistan and India. While Stassen was not aware of the national team being underfunded, she was unaware of the gender imbalance.
“I know that some female athletes in Afghanistan are under the age of 15. The girls that were there [at the time], they were all under 18. It was more like the football team and just for me to attend a match, it was a memorable day for me and a good experience for the girls.”
Before the WFC, Stassen says she had never heard of the women’s national team. The team had previously played in the Olympic qualifiers and the Asian Games but never made it to the big stage in the Asian Cup or the Under-17 World Cup.
And that’s exactly why Stassen made the decision to attend the WFC.
“I wanted to play for my country. I wanted to represent my country on the international stage. It was for my people. It was something different, a dream come true.”
But before the team was able to attend the World Cup, they had to win a game on the Asian Cup Qualifiers.
“We didn’t know how difficult it was [in terms