UK to grant visas to young female Afghan footballers

·2-min read

Watch: UK approves visas for young female footballers from Afghanistan

Dozens of young female Afghan footballers will be able to resettle in the UK after the government approved their visas. 

Girls from the Afghan Women's Development Team had fled Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban in August and have been in Pakistan since then. 

But their temporary visas were due to expire and it was feared that they would have to return. 

On Sunday the government confirmed that they will be able to come to the UK.

Members of Afghanistan's national girls football team arrive at the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in Lahore on September 15, 2021, a month after the hardline Taliban swept back into power officials said. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Arif ALI has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [team arrive] instead of [dressed in burqas]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of Afghanistan's national girls football team at the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in Lahore after fleeing following the takeover by the Taliban. (Getty)

A government spokesperson said: "We are working to finalise visas to the Afghan Women’s Development Team and look forward to welcoming them to the UK shortly.

"The Government is committed to doing all it can to support those most in need, including vulnerable women and girls, and those at risk who have had to flee Afghanistan.

"The UK’s evacuation operation helped over 15,000 people to safety including British nationals, Afghan locally employed staff, and other vulnerable people."

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Players from the Afghan junior women's team fled to Pakistan amid concerns for their safety following the Taliban takeover.

After the fall of Kabul, players were warned by the national team's former captain Khalida Popal to delete pictures of themselves playing on social media and to burn their kits to protect themselves from potential reprisals.

Watch: 'I feel sad for my people': former captain of Afghanistan's women's soccer team

The decision to allow the players and their families to resettle in the UK was welcomed by Siu-Anne Marie Gill, CEO of the ROKiT Foundation, which helped the women flee Afghanistan.

She told the BBC: "This is fantastic news, and we are most grateful to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel for this life-saving decision."

She said those who had enabled the "long journey" included: Pakistan's Prime Minster Imran Khan, the Pakistan Football Federation, Football for Peace and Leeds United Football Club.

Leeds United and Chelsea are among several British football clubs who have said they will support the women in the UK.

Gill added: "Like football, it has been a team effort where every player has had a vital role.

"These young sportswomen and their families are so thrilled to have been given a second chance in life, here in the home of football."

Watch: Anxiety and fear for women in Taliban stronghold

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