Afghan women soccer players flown to U.K. with help from rabbi and Kim Kardashian

LONDON – Members of the Afghan Women’s Youth Football Team arrived in the UK early Thursday after being flown out of Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a UK football club and Kim Kardashian.

A plane with more than 30 teenage players and their families, around 130 people in total, landed at Stansted Airport near London. Afghans will be in coronavirus quarantine for 10 days before starting a new life in the UK.

English Premier League club Leeds United have offered to support the players.

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Britain and other countries hastily airlifted thousands of Afghans when Kabul fell from Taliban fighters in August. Many people have since left for neighboring countries to travel to the west.

Women who play sports have been viewed as a political act of resistance to the Taliban, and hundreds of women athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power and began restricting women’s education and freedoms.

“Afghan women footballers are well-known personalities in the country. Their lives were in great danger because people in the country resisted their activism and wanted to stop their sports and educational activities,” said Khalida Popal, a former captain of the Afghan national women’s team, of the evacuation efforts for female athletes.

Australia evacuated members of the Afghan women’s national football team and the girls’ youth team was relocated to Portugal.

Members of the development team, many of whom come from poor families in the country’s provinces, managed to reach Pakistan and eventually obtain British visas. But they were left in the balance without a flight out of the country for weeks after the deadline for their Pakistani visas expired.

The team received help from the Tzedek Association, a US nonprofit group that previously helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community leave Afghanistan.

The group’s founder, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, worked with reality TV star Kardashian on criminal law reform in the United States

“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wanted to finance the entire flight,” said Margaretten.

The Kardashian spokeswoman confirmed that the star and her brand SKIMs made the donation.

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