Daily Mail

‘Fake players’ among top female team which f led the Taliban

- By Alice Wright

a WOMEN’S football team evacuated from afghanista­n to the UK included some who were not the elite players that it was claimed, an investigat­ion suggests.

Female footballer­s were deemed to be at risk of harm from the Taliban after they regained power in afghanista­n in august 2021.

The Home Office granted visas to 35 top footballer­s and their families, who were flown from Pakistan to the UK in November 2021 in a high-profile rescue mission backed by then home secretary Priti Patel.

Of the 130 evacuees, 13 are now suspected of falsely claiming to be top-tier players, according to a BBC report.

Documents handed to the British authoritie­s – and seen by the BBC – showed many of the women claimed to

‘Have not even worn a football strip’

play for the Herat Youth Team in order to gain entry to the UK. But the team’s former coach Najibullah Nowroozi, told Newsnight that he believes some had never played for the team or so much as visited its ground. ‘I have seen people in the list who have not even worn a football strip in Herat,’ he added.

Sabriah Nawrouzi, former captain of the Herat Youth Team, was evacuated from afghanista­n along with her teammates and now plays in northern England.

Ms Nawrouzi claims she only met some of the women who supposedly played for her team while they were travelling through Pakistan on their way to the UK.

She also claims that once they arrived in Britain she was forced to split the group in two ‘because one team couldn’t play football’.

One player, who was unable to leave and now lives under the Taliban regime, said genuine footballer­s feel abandoned while others escaped under false credential­s.

‘ It just makes me feel very neglected and very sad because we are the real players and not some of those that got evacuated’ the woman, who remained anonymous, told the BBC.

Siu anne Gill, who was chief executive of the Rokit Foundation charity that helped relocate the women, blamed the alleged inaccuraci­es on afghan internatio­nal player Khalida Popal. Rokit, she said, was provided with the names of the players by Ms Popal, and the organisati­on then passed them on to the Home Office.

‘Khalida Popal personally had been including more names and more names and more names,’ Ms Gill said. ‘We asked Khalida, “Did you check that these are footballer­s?” She said, “Yes, they’re definitely footballer­s”.’

Ms Popal, who runs women’s sports non-profit Girl Power, told

Newsnight: ‘I categorica­lly deny the allegation­s directed at me.’ Rokit told the BBC it accepted it added some names to the list and this was agreed with Ms Popal.

Ms Popal said she had provided evidence to prove any suggestion she had ‘knowingly misled anyone about the identities of those evacuated is wrong’.

a Home Office spokesman said: ‘Should there be evidence that the informatio­n provided was incorrect, the Home Office will investigat­e.’

 ?? ?? On the run: Afghan women footballer­s feared punishment from regime
On the run: Afghan women footballer­s feared punishment from regime

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