American media personality Kim Kardashian has helped Afghanistan’s women’s youth development football team fly to safety in the UK.
More than 30 teenage players and their families, around 130 people in total, landed at Stansted Airport in London this morning.
They fled Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country in August. Under the Taliban’s strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law, women playing sport is seen as a political act of defiance.
The team’s arrival was heralded by Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afghanistan women’s football team.
She posted on Twitter: "Great mission accomplished team landed safely in UK. Now, time to get as much support as possible to help them in their resettlement process. 130 people made it safe. Thanks to everyone."
Among those who helped the team to safety was an unexpected figure – American media personality, socialite, model, and businesswoman Kim Kardashian.
According to ESPN, members of the development team, many of whom come from poor families in the country’s provinces, managed to flee Afghanistan and travelled to Pakistan.
Once there, they secured UK visas, but were unable to get a flight out of the country.
They reached out to the Tzedek Association, a nonprofit US group that had helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community leave Afghanistan.
Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, the founder of the Tzedek Association, had previously worked with Kardashian on criminal justice reform in the US. He asked her if she was able to help pay for a chartered plane to the UK.
"Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight," Margaretten said.
Kardashian’s spokeswoman confirmed the star and her lingerie brand SKIMs had made the donation to make the chartered flight possible.
Premier League side Leeds United has offered to support the players, with the club’s chairman Andrea Radrizzani confirming his involvement on Twitter.
"First chapter written today," he wrote. "When I received a call asking help to rescue the youth team from Afghanistan, I didn't know even from where to start.
"Today they flew to UK. Proud to be part of the team to make this real. Let's dream one day they will play in Leeds United FC."
Since the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan, female athletes have been increasingly at risk. Many have been forced to flee the country because of underlying fears concerning their safety.
The senior women’s football team escaped to Australia, while members of the girls team were granted asylum in Portugal.News Now - Sport News