Afghan women soccer players arrive in UK after intervention from Kim Kardashian West
Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team landed in the United Kingdom Thursday morning after a successful rescue effort spearheaded by a New York rabbi, a British soccer club and reality star Kim Kardashian West, The Associated Press reported.
The plane carrying the teen players and their families landed in Stansted Airport from Pakistan. About 130 people aboard will spend 10 days in quarantine before starting their new lives in Britain.
The team received help from the Tzedek Association, a nonprofit group in the U.S. that helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community flee Afghanistan. Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, the group’s founder, reached out to Kardashian West for her help paying for a chartered plane to the U.K. Margaretten, who has worked with the star in the past on U.S. criminal justice reform, said she was quick to help.
“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight,” he said, according to the AP.
Kardashian West and her brand, SKIMS, chartered the plane.
English Premier League club Leeds United also offered to support the players.
Many Afghans left the country in August after the capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban, especially female athletes, as their participation in sports is seen as an act of political defiance under the Taliban.
Members of the development team fled to Pakistan and secured U.K. visas. However, they were stuck there with no flight out for weeks.
Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s team, helped lead evacuation efforts for female athletes.
“Many of those families left their houses when the Taliban took over. Their houses were burnt down,” she told the AP. “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.”
She said she felt “so happy and relieved” that the girls were out of danger.
Updated at 9:18 a.m.