It took months of negotiations and international cooperation to succeed in exfiltrating the hopeful female selection from Afghanistan. The young footballers are now refugees with their families in Leeds and supported by the professional club of the English city.
On a Thursday in November, shortly before 4 a.m., a private plane landed on an icy London runway. On board this specially chartered flight were 130 people: young footballers and their families, arrived exhausted, tense but relieved, at the end of a tragic journey to the United Kingdom from Afghanistan, which began more than four months previously, before the fall of Kabul, which fell into the hands of the Taliban.
After several months of hiding, political negotiations, calls for help and WhatsApp messages, and thanks to the help of a reality TV star and the heroic efforts of the ex-footballer Afghan Khalida Popal, the selection of women hopes of Afghanistan landed on British soil, and with the hope of a new future in the club of Leeds United.
The group, which includes 35 young footballers and their parents, lived in Pakistan on temporary visas. After long negotiations, the United Kingdom agreed to welcome them on its soil.
For the former captain of the national women’s team Khalida Popal, who played a vital role in the evacuation of at least three Afghan footballers, today is “A day of joy”.
“Initially, Afghan women’s football was based on militant action: we sought to put the power of our voices and our sports program at the service of women’s emancipation and justice, beyond the simple sporting framework., she explained in a statement to the press. This team has been through a lot and had to make many sacrifices throughout their journey to freedom. Since they had to leave their home in August, they have been eager to regain the basic human rights and freedoms that we often take for granted. ”
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