Afghan women aim to boost football skills in UK skills exchange

• Scholars travelled to UK to be trained by Leeds youth coaches • Afghan football secretary fined over £15,000 in student enrolment fee

More than 130 female university students from Afghanistan have flown to England in a bid to learn English and improve their football skills.

The women have been taken on a week’s trip to the United Kingdom, with the help of United States Soccer, as part of the United States Endowment for International Education (US GoE) initiative. They have been taken on a tour of football clubs including Derby, Manchester City and Chelsea, including sessions with Leeds United’s players, under the guidance of coaches.

Kim Kardashian and Leeds owner Massimo Cellino help 130 Afghan women fly to UK Read more

For those who have been unable to afford to travel abroad for the project, sports academies have offered funding. The organiser of the UK training, Aida Haydar, said: “There are over 130 students from universities in Kabul and Herat with this exchange, which is a great opportunity for them. We are teaching them English and football – plus we will have instructors from Leeds United and Derby County here to teach them women’s football.”

In Kabul, students will take part in a wide range of different challenges including playing tactical drills, playing football matches and face-offs with role-players, while in Herat they will experience activities such as taking part in a karaoke night and a gig.

In Pakistan, men and women play together for the first time in a tournament at the stadium in Lahore. Photograph: BBC

The United States GoE initiative works with high schools and universities to help increase the use of sports in education and increase the inclusion of girls in sport. Schools involved in the initiative typically hold a fair of football competitions for high school girls and so have produced some outstanding players, such as Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and Dani Alves.

At the Leeds Football Academy, for example, more than 200 students across seven clubs have been part of some of the unique programmes funded by the United States GoE initiative. The trips for women from Afghanistan were requested by this year’s graduating student.

Katherine Camp, the United States GoE ambassador, said: “Our goal is to create opportunities for students around the world to study and learn, while also playing sports. Providing these women with learning support and sport training is the perfect way to ensure that they improve their English and make new lifelong friends in Leeds.”

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