Slavery probe investigates Afghan girls' football team in England
The Afghan girls' football team which was evacuated from Afghanistan in November is being investigated by police for allegations that the girls are being forced to play against their will.
British police tasked with tackling modern slavery have launched a probe to investigate claims that the Afghan girls' football team that left for Britain in November 2021 are being forced to play against their will.
At the time, the evacuation of the team following the chaotic US withdrawal was hailed as a humanitarian success story.
However, if respected figures within Afghan football are believed, then former national team captain Khalida Popal, who arranged places on the flight and was hailed as a heroine by media outlets for her "bravery", actually replaced people who were supposed to be on the flight with her friends. Popal denied any involvement in the allegations.
When media reports first surfaced of the claims, Popal said that her accusers were simply jealous of their inability to evacuate their own families.
The claims say that the 28 girls that were actually on the team, aged between 11 and 18, were left in Afghanistan.
Officers were called in to investigate after complaints that the women in the UK were being forced to play football, and were taking part in media appearances against their will, despite many of them not being football players.
Moreover, it was revealed in December that only 15 of the 132 people on board the flight were eligible to play for the Afghan girls' youth development squad, meaning the team that was actually supposed to be evacuated to Britain.
Arezo Rahimi, head of women’s football at the Afghan Football Association, said: ‘The majority of the people on Ms Popal’s list are not players and their families at all. Most of the development team players are still trapped in Afghanistan."