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The Keeper

How an Afghan soccer player and her teammates fled their homes, outran a murderous regime and forged the uncertain beginnings of a new life.

On the day she would leave her old life behind, Fati could hardly think because she had a headache from lack of sleep. But within minutes of Bahara’s phone call, it was like a bomb of energy had exploded inside her brain.

Before heading out the door, Fati said, she toured her house and courtyard one last time, examining everything so she would remember the details.

Goodbye, grapevine. Goodbye, jerseys and trophies, now safe beneath the ground. Goodbye, dreamy-looking mountains in the distance.

Goodbye, childhood.

As their taxi drove off, Fati turned to see her aunt, who had stayed behind. In the Afghan tradition of bidding people good luck when they take a trip, the aunt was splashing water onto the road with a watering can.

This time, more than ever, Fati would need all of that good luck.

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