Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

The British government has approved visas for a group of young female footballers from Afghanistan.

The girls had fled to Pakistan after their country fell to the Taliban in August, and it was from there that they had told Sky News they were desperate to find security in the UK.

At the time, they had less than a week left on their Pakistani visas and were afraid of what might happen to them if they were forced to return to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have banned girls from playing football.

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October 1: Afghan girls’ soccer team seeks refuge

Narges, 18, had told Sky News: “The only thing we all know is that we do not want to return to Afghanistan again.”

Asked if she had a message for the UK government, the teenager had added: “If you can accept us, we would be really happy to be able to live in the UK and have the UK as our host country.

“The only thing we want from your government and your humanitarian institutions is to find a host country for us to help us be happy again and be alive again, create a new life and be good football players in the future.”

But on Saturday night, she and teammate Sabria said, “Our lives have been saved and we are all eternally grateful.

“Especially to the efforts of our new British friend Siu -Anne Marie Gill of the ROKIT Foundation to keep us all inspired – it was very difficult – to keep believing that Britain will fight to save our lives.”

The Afghan footballer Sabria with his U23 teammates
The Afghan footballer Sabria with his U23 teammates

Ms Gill said: “We found out on Friday that the British government has given authority for the Afghan National Football Team for Women in Hungary to come to the UK.

“This is great news and we are most grateful to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel for this life-saving decision.

“It has been a long journey made possible by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, the Football Association of Pakistan, Jonathan Kendrick’s ROKiT Group, Football for Peace, Leeds United Football Club and the former Afghan football captain Khalida Popal.

“Like football, it has been a team effort, where each player has played a crucial role.

“These young sportswomen and their families are so excited to have another chance in life here in the home of football.

“The next step is to settle them in their new homes. We will do everything we can to support them in this process and the communities that welcome them.”

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