PtG Article 30.06.2022

Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation and Khalida Popal receive the Play the Game Award 2022

On the last day of Play the Game 2022, the Play the Game Award was awarded to the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation and Khalida Popal, founder and director of the Girl Power Organisation.

The Play the Game Award pays tribute to an individual or a group of persons who in their professional careers or as volunteers in sport have made an outstanding effort to strengthen the basic ethical values of sport.

This applies to both award-winners and made it impossible for the selection committee to choose one over the other.

“Instead, we selected two award winners who have everything in common,” said international director for Play the Game, Jens Sejer Andersen, in his motivation speech.

Both Khalida Popal and those involved with the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation have put their lives at risk by opposing violent, inhuman, autocratic regimes in respectively Afghanistan and Belarus, to protect fellow athletes.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation was created in August 2020 to provide support to athletes facing repression from the Belarusian regime, whilst Khalida Popal has worked for years to protect the interests of female athletes in Afghanistan and most recently has played a key role in getting athletes out of the Taliban-controlled country.

“They did this knowing that it would harm their careers and the social status of themselves and their families and friends. They have paid a high price and now have to work from their exiles. There is no realistic hope that they can return home anytime soon,” Andersen said.

Andersen praised the two award-winners for using their passion for sport and their athletic careers as drivers for social change and putting themselves at the forefront of struggles for democracy and basic human rights.

“They are also struggling to convince national and international sports organisations to break their bonds to repressive regimes and to show not only in paper and speeches but also in political action that the values of sport are real values, not just symbolic values,” Andersen said.

“They represent not only themselves, but athletes worldwide who fight against injustice and oppression. And they represent geopolitical conflicts that we thought we would never experience again in our times,” Andersen said.

The Play the Game Award consists of a piece of art and a speaker’s invitation including free travel, accommodation, and board for the next Play the Game conference.

Learn more about the award-winners:

Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation

Khalida Popal

Read more about the award and the previous winners

Play the Game Award

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