KABUL: Shiba Rahimi, a demure pale pink hijab covering her hair, sits forward in her seat and does a shrill two-finger whistle at the male footballers darting around the all-weather field in Kabul.
The university student is one of dozens of football-mad women sitting in the female section of the Afghan capital’s main stadium enjoying a rare opportunity to have fun in public in patriarchal Afghanistan.
“Women are not harassed or bothered by anyone here. It is a good place for women,” 21-year-old Rahimi tells AFP, as she sits with her family watching the Afghan Premier League (APL) clash between Toofan Harirod and Simorgh Alborz.
A cross section of women — students, professionals and grandmothers — hold red “Goaaal!” posters and wave Afghan national flags as they scream the names of their favourite team, their faces beaming.
Women, some partially veiled to only show their eyes, trickle into the stadium throughout the game. To reach their segregated seating next to the VIP section they must walk past a men’s stand under the gaze of scores of eyes.
It is a scene that would have been unthinkable during the Taliban’s repressive and misogynistic regime when women were largely confined to their homes and, when they did venture outside with a male escort, hidden from view under burqas.
The ground where the game is under way is close to the old stadium where matches held under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule featured public executions with criminals hanged or shot and thieves’ hands cut off.