23/07/2017 - 18:59

Football: Afghan-born Dane Nadim says sport key to opening closed doors

Having fled her native Afghanistan with her family as a child, Nadia Nadim has found a new home in Denmark, whose shirt she is wearing at the women’s Euro tournament in the Netherlands.

The 29-year-old striker with the Portland Thorns in the US National Women’s Soccer League left her home with her mother and four sisters in 2000, after her father had been murdered by the Taliban.

“We had no choice than escaping the country because it was too dangerous to live there,” Nadim told AFP at Denmark’s training ground in Heelsum.

“We got helped by a human smuggler to get to Denmark and now I’m here.”

Nadim took up football at a refugee centre in Denmark, playing with boys.

“There was nothing else to do and there was a really big club close to the centre and that’s where I started.”

She has played for several Danish clubs before joining the New Jersey-based Sky Blue in the NWSL in 2014 and Portland two years later.

Having fled her native Afghanistan with her family as a child, Nadia Nadim has found a new home in Denmark, whose shirt she is wearing at the women’s Euro tournament in the Netherlands.

The 29-year-old striker with the Portland Thorns in the US National Women’s Soccer League left her home with her mother and four sisters in 2000, after her father had been murdered by the Taliban.

“We had no choice than escaping the country because it was too dangerous to live there,” Nadim told AFP at Denmark’s training ground in Heelsum.

“We got helped by a human smuggler to get to Denmark and now I’m here.”

Nadim took up football at a refugee centre in Denmark, playing with boys.

“There was nothing else to do and there was a really big club close to the centre and that’s where I started.”

She has played for several Danish clubs before joining the New Jersey-based Sky Blue in the NWSL in 2014 and Portland two years later.

“Playing for Portland is huge, this is 100 percent a dream come true,” said Nadim.

“I remember when I was younger and I had to imagine what it will be to be a professional football player. It was this way that it is right now. So it’s amazing and such honour to be a part of that club.”

Nadim joined the Danish national team in 2009 after the Danish federation had negotiated an exception from the country’s immigration laws.

She has scored nine goals in 22 games in qualifying for the three Euro tournaments in which she has taken part so far — but seven of those goals came in eight games in the 2017 campaign.

“The previous tournaments were kind of different for me, having a coach who didn’t really have trust in me so I didn’t feel I played a major role,” said Nadim.

“Now it’s different, I have developed as a player, but also have the trust of the coach,” she added after having figured in both the opening 1-0 win against Belgium and the subsequent 1-0 loss to the Netherlands.

– Opening door –

Despite living in the United States and in Denmark, where she studies at medical school, Nadim has never lost her interest in her homeland.

Female athletes were once an impossibility in Afghanistan, but things are changing slowly, she said.

“They’re starting to have some female athletes, trying to have a female football team too,” she said.

“I hope the progress continues and I hope also that I can contribute to that, to show that it’s possible to do that as a female Muslim.”

Nadim said that with all that football experience, she would not mind becoming an ambassador of the sport.

“That’s part of my plan, my goal,” she said.

“I want to be a part of making soccer, not just women’s soccer but generally football, bigger and help it to reach the heights that I know it has the potential to do.”

Sport has huge power to change point of views… I know that from my own experience, having the background where the culture and the religion also plays a huge part.”

“I feel that’s where sports could play a key role, because no one does it and they’re like, oh, maybe that’s not the way it’s supposed to be, but if you show them that it’s OK, maybe more doors will open.”

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