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Members of the Afghanistan women’s youth development football team have been airlifted to the UK in an evacuation flight funded by Kim Kardashian West.
The 35 female players and their families, 130 people in total, touched down at Stansted Airport shortly before 4am on Thursday, according to the ROKiT Foundation.
The squad had been in Pakistan on temporary 30-day visas since escaping from Afghanistan following the takeover by the Taliban, but faced being sent back once their asylum period ran out if another country had not accepted them.
A privately-funded charter flight brought them to the UK, where they will begin their new lives following a 10-day coronavirus quarantine in hotel accommodation.
And a representative for reality star Mrs Kardashian West confirmed to the PA news agency that the flight was funded by her and her SKIMS brand.
Siu-Anne Gill, chief executive officer of the ROKiT Foundation which helped to co-ordinate the footballers’ escape from Afghanistan, said she was “extremely humbled by the courage shown by these girls”.
“That’s inspired us to ensure that their efforts in getting over the border don’t go to waste,” she said.
Leeds United are among organisations that have offered to help the girls, she said.
Ms Gill said she hoped the “family of football” would help the squad in their “second chance at life”.
She said the girls, aged from 12 and up to members of the under-23 team, had been given phones loaded with £100 of credit by the charity.
A government spokesperson said: “Like others we have brought to the UK from Afghanistan, the Afghanistan girls’ football team will receive a warm welcome, support and accommodation.
“The government is committed to doing all it can to support those most in need, including vulnerable women and girls at risk who have had to flee Afghanistan.”