As the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s major cities in August 2021, thousands of Afghans tried to flee the country through Kabul airport. Western governments scrambled to evacuate their diplomats and workers, and chaos reigned as many Afghans ran onto the tarmac in an effort to catch a flight.
On Aug. 16, 2021, pictures and videos spread online of people running alongside a U.S. military airplane that was departing the runway. Figures were seen clinging to the sides of the airplane. Viral videos showed the plane taking off and appeared to show some people falling to their deaths. Local reports said at least two people fell to their deaths after the plane took off.
One of the people who tried to cling onto the side of the plane was a young football player, Zaki Anwari. In a Facebook statement, Afghanistan’s General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports confirmed that Anwari was on the national youth soccer team. The group paid tribute to him and posted photographs of him in a suit and in his jersey.
“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 post stated.
The statement also prayed that Anwari would rest in heaven, and offered a prayer for his family, friends, and sports teammates.
Anwari was only 17 years old, according to The New York Times. In an interview with the paper, Aref Peyman, the head of media relations for the sports federation, confirmed Anwari’s death.
He added that the footballer had come from a low-income family, was “kind and patient,” and worked hard to get to the national soccer team. He continued, “Like so many of our young people 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.”