London: Members of Afghanistan’s youth development football team arrived in the UK after being flown out of Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a British football club and Kim Kardashian West.
A plane chartered by the real star and carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in total, landed at Stansted Airport near London early Thursday, local time. The Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new lives in the UK.
English Premier League club Leeds United have offered to support the players.
Britain and other countries evacuated thousands of Afghans on a fast airlift when Kabul fell to Taliban extremists in August. Many more people have since left overland to neighboring countries in hopes of traveling to the West.
Women playing sports were seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban, and hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power and began curbing women’s education and freedoms.
Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s team that led evacuation efforts for female athletes, said she felt “so happy and so reassured” that the girls and women were out of danger.
“Many of those families left their houses when the Taliban took over. Their houses were set on fire,” Popal told the Associated Press. “Some of their family members were killed or taken by the Taliban. So the danger and the stress were very high, and so it was very important to move quickly to get them out of Afghanistan.”
Australia evacuated the members of Afghanistan’s national women’s football team, and the youth team was relocated to Portugal.