Afghan officials have claimed that real members of the Afghan girls football team were left behind in Kabul to make space for senior players’ friends, Daily Mail reported.
It was reported that the teenagers, the youth development squad, and their families would now enjoy a new life in Britain, partly thanks to US reality TV star Kim Kardashian who had paid for the flight.
The mercy mission has been soured by a bitter war of words, with senior figures in Afghan football claiming that members of the squad were left behind to make way for friends of senior players, the report said.
Much of the criticism has been levelled at former national team captain Khalida Popal, who arranged places on the flight, the report said.
Arezo Rahimi, head of women’s football at the Afghan Football Association, said: “The majority of the people on Popal’s list are not players and their families at all. Most players from the development team are still trapped in Afghanistan they are living in fear and have no hope of getting out.”
The BBC reported in October that the 35-member squad, aged 13 to 19, had escaped Kabul, and on November 18 they arrived in the UK with their families.
upon arriving in Britain, Popal said that “around 25” players were on board, adding that the definition of a “youth” squad in Afghanistan includes people as old as 23.
However, the list she prepared includes two basketball players and even a 32-year-old footballer, the Daily Mail reported.
Rahimi and three former players have analysed the flight list but could identify only 15 footballers among the 132 people on board.
A separate list produced by Rahimi shows that 28 eligible players, aged between 11 and 18, are still in Afghanistan.
Shamila Kohestani, a former captain of the Afghan women’s national football team, said: “These athletes have risked their lives to play a game they love, and now their lives are at risk again.
“But nobody is helping them, while other people were evacuated who are not football players.”