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UK: Refugee footballers meet Keir Starmer after exhibition match with Women's Parliamentary team

Kim Leadbeater MP playing at Amnesty's annual Football Welcomes match
Kim Leadbeater MP playing at Amnesty's annual Football Welcomes match © M-A Ventoura and Amnesty International

Afghan refugee team and Comfort Angels met football fan Keir Starmer at Parliament after victorious match against women’s parliamentary team

Afghan team fled the Taliban in 2021 and now support Amnesty’s Football Welcomes project

Football helps to break down barriers, build confidence and create new connections’ - Naomi Westland

Images of the match available here

Celebrating Refugee Week, the Afghan National Team Development Team - known as Girl Power - and Comfort Angels beat the UK Women’s Parliamentary Football Club today in a thrilling match played in support of Amnesty International UK’s Football Welcomes campaign - an initiative to welcome refugees and people seeking asylum into UK communities.

The exhibition match, which took place in central London and involved an all-teams warm-up followed by four six-a-side games, saw the Afghan team and Comfort Angels beating the parliamentarians.

Representing Afghanistan, the Girl Power team wore a kit in the national Afghan colours of black, red and green. All the members of the team fled the Taliban in September 2021 and since their arrival in the UK two months later they’ve continued to pursue their passion for football.

Narges Mayeli, team captain for Girl Power, said:

“It was great playing with some phenomenal women today. Having the chance to train and play football on the pitch still feels surreal, but we wish we could go back to our home turf and represent our country at a national level.”

Comfort Angels, representing refugee women from countries including Albania, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia, helps to integrate refugees and those seeking asylum in Liverpool.

Comfort Etim, Nigeria’s first female football coach and team captain for Comfort Angels, said:  

“Seeking asylum can be daunting and very scary. People are stuck in limbo for years and that’s why I created the team: to provide a safe space. Football has given us all the opportunity to learn English, make friends, socialise and most importantly to empower women.”

Kim Leadbeater, MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire representing the UK Women’s Parliamentary Football Club, said:

“It was an honour to play alongside such remarkable women and celebrate Refugee Week with them. Their journeys have been tough and it’s an absolute pleasure to have them settled in the UK.”

Naomi Westland, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Football Welcomes, said:

“This is the power of football - bringing together women and girls from all walks of life on the pitch. Social isolation is a massive problem facing people seeking asylum in this country. Football helps to break down barriers, build confidence and create new connections. We really want to help build this camaraderie with Amnesty’s Football Welcomes campaign.”

Football Welcomes

Now in its sixth year, Amnesty’s Football Welcomes campaign works with football clubs across the country to highlight the role football can play in creating more welcoming communities for refugees and people seeking asylum. Today’s event was made possible thanks to funds raised by participants in the People’s Postcode Lottery, awarded by Postcode Justice Trust. The scheme has raised more than £1.1 billion to support thousands of charities and local good causes.

The Afghan Development Squad - Girl Power

Facing the threat of persecution and even death as women playing football, the Girl Power squad fled the Taliban in September 2021 and finally made it safely to the UK two months later. Since the team’s journey to safety, they have been adjusting to a new life and a future in the UK. This has involved many challenges as the players and their families were forced to flee Afghanistan with few possessions.

Comfort Angels

Liverpool-based Comfort Angels provide much-needed support by bringing communities together and offering a safe space for women to express themselves freely. The team represents refugee women from countries including Albania, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Women’s Parliamentary Football Club

The women’s parliamentary football team was established by Jo Tanner to help promote involvement in football among women working across different sectors in Parliament, including MPs, researchers and journalists. 

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