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130 Afghans, all connected to soccer team, leave on flight funded by Kim Kardashian West

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Members of an Afghan women’s youth development soccer team and their families were flown to the U.K. with help from a soccer club, a New York rabbi and Kim Kardashian West.

The 30 teenage soccer players and their families, totaling about 130 people, landed at Stansted Airport near London early Thursday morning, the Associated Press reported.

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan’s government in August, women playing sports is now seen as a political act of defiance in the country. Hundreds of female athletes have left after the group took power.

The team members had managed to flee to Pakistan and secure U.K. visas but were left waiting for weeks for any flight out of the country as time on their Pakistani visas quickly ticked away.

That was when New York-based nonprofit Tzedek Association, which focuses on criminal justice, humanitarian aid and religious liberty, got involved. The group previously helped the last member of Kabul’s Jewish community out of Afghanistan.

Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, the group’s founder, had previously worked with Kardashian West on criminal justice reform, so he called her and asked if she would be willing to help pay for a chartered plane to the U.K.

“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight,” Margaretten said.

As the 130 people begin to settle into their lives in the U.K., English Premier League club Leeds United has also offered to lend their support to the players.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

FILE – Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team arrived in Britain early Thursday, Nov. 18, after being flown from Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a U.K. soccer club and Kim Kardashian West. Above, Kardashian West arrives to the Serena Williams fashion show during Fashion Week in New York, Sept. 10, 2019. Seth Wenig, File/AP Photo The Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new lives in Britain.

Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s team who has spearheaded evacuation efforts for female athletes, said she felt “so happy and so relieved” that the girls and women were out of danger.

“Many of those families left their houses when the Taliban took over. Their houses were burnt down,” Popal told the Associated Press. “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.”

Australia evacuated the members of Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team, and the youth girls’ team was resettled in Portugal.

Kardashian West’s spokeswoman confirmed that the star and her brand SKIMs had chartered the flight.

About 130 Afghan female athletes and their families fled for the U.K. because women playing sports is seen as an act of political defiance against the Taliban. Above, Afghan Burqa-clad women walk on a street in Ghazni City in the province of Ghanzni, on Nov. 13. Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

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