LONDON: The BBC was at the center of another scandal after being accused of calling a group of Afghan female football players who escaped to the UK “false footballers.”
In a “Newsnight” report aired on Friday, of the 35 women and their families that fled to the UK through Pakistan in November 2021, 13 were claimed to have lied on their evacuation forms regarding the teams they played for.
Many social media users found the terminology condescending and belittling and argued that it detracted from the players’ bravery and accomplishments in escaping the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.
One of the players Mozhdah Howaida, posted a video on Twitter describing how she was approached by a BBC reporter, and “thought it was a joke.”
She said: “I came here all alone. I lost my family, my friends, my old ones behind to pursue my education to just play the game which I love.”
Howaida added that she was still dealing with “trauma and nightmares every single night.”
In a tweet, another player Zeynab Mozaffri, said: “I am one of the players you wrote about. It’s sad to read this. I have a question: How come the BBC chose to interview the male coach who left us behind and didn’t fight for us? We as women were at risk, and now he is saying we don’t deserve to be safe?”
In response to the criticism, the BBC issued an apology for any offense caused, emphasizing that it had not intended to diminish the players or their achievements.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We were initially contacted by the former women footballers still in Afghanistan who were unhappy they had been left behind and who had seen others claiming to be top-tier sportspeople granted refugee status. We investigated their claims.
“The BBC has taken care not to identify anyone who hasn’t previously been identified in other media but we will always carefully consider representations from those involved in stories.”