Besides captaining Afghanistan women’s national football team, and playing with the ambitious Fortuna Sittard (Dutch club) Farkhunda Muhtaj has made a difference off the pitch as well.
Representing and captaining the Afghanistan women’s national team is a challenging responsibility, however, Muhtaj had many ambitions to achieve with her country’s national team before the recent regime change in Afghanistan.
In the summer of 2021, Muhtaj was in constant contact with Afghanistan Football Federation about competing in the qualifying campaign for the Women’s World Cup for the first time. She and her team would pay maximum effort to make their dream come true.
However, things changed quite rapidly in Afghanistan with the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. Besides captaining the national women’s team, she had a new responsibility to help her team evacuate. After month-long efforts, Muhtaj was able to get all players from various national teams to safety in Portugal.
“It is difficult for the national players to learn a whole new language and then also learn it well enough to be able to do well in school, be able to get employed. These are kind of the difficulties we are working with right now,” Muhtaj said.
She further added that “nonetheless, the whole process has been an incredible blessing and I am so lucky that we were able to push through and now they have a better future.”
For Afghanistan women’s national team footballers, Muhtaj is not just a professional footballer – she is a smart captain, a great role model, and a hero who saved their lives and provided them with the opportunity to excel and shine again in their careers.
Muhtaj returned to playing at a club that she describes as “ideal” for her not only in its ambition on the pitch but its values off it. Fortuna Sittard entered the women’s Eredivisie for the first time in 2022. Muhtaj has already positively influenced her side in the league on different fronts be it her professional quality, leadership, and the desire to for success.
“Besides Farkhunda has an excellent quality on the pitch – because she is also a very good football player – what she did for her country is amazing. She can be an important figure in this regard,” Bo Breukers, Fortuna Sittard head of women’s football, said.
Through her athleticism and social activities, Muhtaj has proved that Afghan women can be as successful as anyone else if they are provided with the right opportunities. However, in Afghanistan, under the Taliban leadership, women and girls have been completely erased from public life – they no longer are allowed to participate in education, employment, and sports.