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Teenage Afghan football player who fell from US plane was ‘kind and patient’

Published: Updated:

A member of Afghanistan’s national youth football team was among the victims who fell to their death after clinging to a US military plane taking off from Kabul as they tried to flee the Taliban takeover, the country’s official sports federation confirmed on Thursday.

He has been named as Zaki Anwari, aged just 17.

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He was one of several Afghans who rushed onto the tarmac of the capital’s airport and desperately held onto to the side of the plane before takeoff, captured in a widely-shared video that encapsulated the chaos of America’s exit from Afghanistan.

Some of them chased aircraft carrying Americans and tried to climb onto their sides, wings, and wheels.

The young football player was among them, the federation said.

“Anwari was one of hundreds of young people who wanted to leave the country and, in an incident, fell off an American military plane and died,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.

The sports community of Afghanistan was in grief, the statement said. It wished Zaki a place in heaven and offered a prayer that God grant his family, friends and teammates peace and patience as they mourn.

The federation posted photos of Zaki wearing his team’s red jersey — he was No. 10 — and standing on a football field.

Aref Peyman, the head of media relations for the sports federation and for Afghanistan’s Olympic Committee, confirmed Zaki’s death in an interview with the New York Times.

He described the teenager as “kind and patient,” but said, like many other young Afghans, “he saw the arrival of the Taliban as the end of his dreams and sports opportunities.”

“He had no hope and wanted a better life.”

Video taken on Monday showed at least two people dropping to the ground from an airplane shortly after it took off. The Pentagon confirmed that two people had died falling from the plane, and body parts were also discovered in the landing gear of the aircraft after it landed in Qatar.

More than 18,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul airport since the Taliban took over the Afghanistan capital, a NATO official told Reuters on Friday.

Al Arabiya English reported on Thursday how an Afghan doctor who was a newlywed and a teenager who had plans of traveling the world have been named as two of the other victims who fell to their death after clinging to the US military plane taking off from Kabul.

Mohammed Vida, 22, spent years studying at school, and then at the university where he graduated, before getting a job in a private hospital.

He had just married his wife a year ago.

Also hoping to flee the Taliban rule was 17-year-old Reza, Vice reported Thursday.

Reza left home with his 16-year-old brother, Kabeer, on Monday.

The brothers fled for the airport in hopes of escaping, fearing life under Taliban rule.

Neither of them made it back home.

Reza’s death was also caught on the harrowing clips that went viral on social media, as specks in the sky—later confirmed to be people—were spotted falling off the plane.

Read more:

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Afghan doctor, teenager among victims who fell from US plane trying to flee Taliban

Evacuations from Kabul pick up speed, with planes landing in Dubai on way to UK