More than 30 members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team have arrived in London after being flown from Pakistan on chartered flight paid for by Kim Kardashian West.
The flight carried the teenage players and their families, about 130 people in total, to Stansted Airport in London.
English Premier League club Leeds United has offered to support the players as they establish their new lives in the UK.
It’s been reported that New York Rabbi Roshe Margaretten, the founder of the Jewish nonprofit Tzedek Association, had contacted Kardashian West about helping the Afghan teenagers leave Pakistan. The two have previously worked hand in hand on criminal justice reform in the US.
Women involved in Afghanistan sport have been in grave danger since the Taliban takeover, with hundred of female athletes fleeing the country.
Khalida Popal, a former captain of the Afghanistan national women’s soccer team, said she was relieved that the women’s youth development team had been taken to safety.
“Many of those families left their house when the Taliban took over. Their houses were burnt down,” Popal told the Associated Press. “Some of their family members were killed or taken by Taliban. So the danger and the stress was very high and that’s why it was very important to move fast to get them outside Afghanistan.”
Especial thanks to @Tzedek_Assoc Rabbi Moshe Margaretten one of the hero’s I love and respect a lot. Thanks for helping us with the charter to get my team out of Pakistan, and many thanks to @KimKardashian for funding the charter. 🙏❤️💪— Khalida Popal (@khalida_popal) November 18, 2021
The players, aged between 13 and 19, had been staying temporarily in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover. They will now quarantine for 10 days in London.
Popal posted on Twitter that she was happy the youth team would soon get a taste of freedom.
First mission accomplished Afghan youth team arriving in couple of hrs🇬🇧 Thanks all the amazing people &governments made this possible. My girls will breath in freedom soon. @andrearadri @PlayChange @Tzedek_Assoc @iamkashsiddiqi @KimKardashian #SardarNavid Pakistan⚽️FA &others pic.twitter.com/7BDJVdSoHJ— Khalida Popal (@khalida_popal) November 17, 2021
Many members of the youth development team come from poor families in Afghanistan’s provinces, and had managed to reach Pakistan but remained there in limbo for weeks. Eventually, they secured UK visas.
Previously, Australia had evacuated the Afghanistan women’s soccer team, and the girl’s youth team had been resettled by Portugal.
According to the Associated Press, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten had reached out to Kardashian West to help charter the flight for the development team. “Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight,” Margaretten said.