Hedvig Lindahl © REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl is hoping to do more than save shots with her new charity drive—the 38-year-old hopes that prize draws featuring her kit and personal video messages can help save lives in Afghanistan.
The shot-stopper, who plays her club football for Atletico Madrid in Spain, decided to launch the campaign following the recent Taliban takeover and the subsequent strife that has made life difficult for many Afghans.
“We can’t look away from what is happening now that all the foreigners have left Afghanistan. It’s very much an ongoing situation and it’s important not to forget the people there. These are questions of life and death,” Lindahl told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“I follow a lot of journalists, primarily on Twitter, and I am touched by the stories—I can put myself in the position of being a family with small children and how it might be not to be able to feed your kids.”
The outspoken Swede, who has two children together with her wife Sabine, sees it as an obligation to use her public profile to make a difference, although she might face criticism.
“Those of us with privilege need to use their platform—I could just as easily be talking about Yemen or Syria or anything else, but right now I chose Afghanistan because it’s so recent, and the Taliban takeover has changed life for so many, especially girls,” the former Chelsea player explained.
“Maybe I’m not building up my brand in the right way, but at some point you have to be a human being and react to things, so I do it. I’m just me, the same person that grew up in a small town in Sweden and that just happens to play football.”
Donations of 500 Swedish crowns ($57.27) or more on her website are rewarded with a personal video message from the 178-cap keeper and two-time Olympic silver medallist.
There are also gloves and signed Sweden and Atletico Madrid shirts up for grabs in prize draws that cost from 1000 Swedish crowns and upwards to enter.
The money raised by Lindahl will go to Afghan Aid, a UK-based non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance to those affected by the conflict in Afghanistan.
“It’s a little drop in the ocean, really, that I maybe can help with, so that we don’t turn our eyes away from what is happening,” she said.
© REUTERS/Rodrigo Antunes
Afghan Girls’ Soccer Squad Find New Home in Portugal
Portugal has granted asylum to several young footballers from Afghanistan’s national female youth soccer squad who fled their country in fear after the Taliban hardline Islamist movement seized power in August.
“I’m free,” says 15-year-old soccer player Sarah, smiling from ear-to-ear as she visited Lisbon’s landmark Belem Tower on the River Tagus with her mother and teammates. Now safely in Portugal, she hopes to pursue her dream of playing soccer professionally—and perhaps meeting her idol, star striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
“My dream is to be a good player like Ronaldo—and I want to be a big business woman here in Portugal,” she said.
She hopes to go back home one day but only if she can live freely.
“The reason we took on this mission (to evacuate the team) was to ensure they can play the sport they love,” said Farkhunda Muhtaj, captain of the Afghanistan women’s senior national team.
One relative, 25-year-old Zaki Rasa, said he is now delighted to be in Portugal and wants to continue his studies.
“There is some uncertainty about the future,” he said. “The important thing is that we are safe.”