Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development football team arrived in Britain on Thursday after being flown in from Pakistan with the help of a US rabbi, a British football club and Kim Kardashian West.
- Hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power
- Members of the development team went to Pakistan before obtaining visas to the UK
- Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team was evacuated by Australia
A plane carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in total, landed at Stansted Airport near London.
Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new life in Britain.
English Premier League club Leeds United have offered to support the players.
Britain and other countries evacuated thousands of Afghans in a hasty airlift when Kabul fell to Taliban militants in August.
Afghanistan’s women’s national football team was evacuated by Australia and the youth team was resettled in Portugal.
Many more people have since traveled overland to neighboring countries in hopes of traveling further to the West.
Left in limbo in Pakistan
Women who played sports were seen as a politically defiant act against the Taliban, and hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power and began slowing down women’s education and freedom.
“Many of those families left their homes [and] when the Taliban took over, their houses were burned down, “said former women’s national team captain Khalida Popal, who has spearheaded the evacuation efforts for women athletes.
“Tonight, all night, I waited because I still did not believe until they landed and they sent the pictures and videos. I was still not ready to accept. But when I received the videos, it made me so happy.
“It made me happy to know that these women and their families were given the opportunity to breathe freedom, to experience freedom. And they are out of danger, and they are out of fear of losing their lives and losing their daughters, especially to their families. . “
After leaving Afghanistan, members of the development team, many of whom come from poor families in the country’s provinces, managed to reach Pakistan and eventually secure British visas.
But they were left in limbo for weeks without flying out of the country as the time limit for their Pakistani visas ticked down.
The team enlisted the help of the Tzedek Association, a nonprofit American group that previously helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community leave Afghanistan.
The group’s founder, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, has worked with Kardashian on criminal law reform in the United States.
He reached out to the reality star to help pay for a chartered plane.
ABC / AP