LONDON (AP) , Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development football team arrived in the UK early Thursday after being flown in from Pakistan with help from the New York Rabbi, UK Football Club and Kim Kardashian West.
About 130 people landed at Stansted Airport near London, a plane hired by the reality star and carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families. Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting a new life in Britain.
English Premier League club Leeds United have offered to support the players.
Britain and other countries hastily evacuated thousands of Afghans after Kabul fell to Taliban militants in August. Since then many more have left the land for neighboring countries in the hope of traveling west.
Kim Kardashian is seen in Midtown on November 2, 2021 in New York City.
Women playing the sport was seen as a political defiance against the Taliban, and hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power and curbed women’s education and freedom.
Former Afghanistan women’s team captain, Khaleda Popal, who has led evacuation efforts for female athletes, said she is “so happy and so relieved” that the girls and women are out of danger.
“Many of those families left their homes when the Taliban came to power. Their homes were burned down,” Pople told the Associated Press. “Some of his family members were killed or taken by the Taliban. So the threat and tension was high, and so it was very important to move quickly to get him out of Afghanistan.”
Australia pulled out members of the Afghanistan national women’s football team, and the young girls’ team was resettled in Portugal.
Members of the development team, many of whom come from poor families in the country’s provinces, were able to reach Pakistan and eventually obtain UK visas. But he was left in limbo for weeks with no flights out of the country as his Pakistani visa expired.
The team received help from the Tzedek Association, a non-profit American group that had previously helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community leave Afghanistan.
The group’s founder, Rabbi Moses Margaretton, has worked with reality TV star Kardashian West on criminal justice reform in America.
“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wanted to fund the entire flight,” Margaretton said.
A Kardashian West spokeswoman confirmed that the star and her brand SKIM had hired the flight.