From refugee to professional footballer: the incredible story of Nadia Nadim

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The Afghan-born, currently at PSG, has built a football career with a lot of effort and talent.

Nadia nadim

It is not easy to be born in Afghanistan, especially for women, who have seen their rights radically limited. Photo: IG-nadi9nadim

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: De refugiada a futbolista profesional: la increíble historia de Nadia Nadim

The world of football is full of exciting stories, of struggle, perseverance, and above all of overcoming. There are origins that are difficult to digest, but thanks to a 180-degree turn, they end up being a reason for the impulse towards a better present. Precisely, Nadia Nadim's life has been marked by, obstacles that she had to overcome in order to become an example of inspiration for girls, boys, and adults.

It is not easy to be born in Afghanistan, especially for women, who have seen their rights radically limited. On January 2, 1988, in the city of Herat, the story of Nadia began, the second of five sisters, who had to experience the terror of civil war firsthand. Her early childhood years were happy, where she even got to know a soccer ball for the first time thanks to her father, as she told EFE in an interview. But the worst was yet to come.

Also read: Main Gender Stereotypes in Sports 

With the outbreak of war that brought the Taliban to power in Afghanistan in 1996, 8-year-old Nadia had to deal with the murder of her father, an Army General, at the hands of the rebels. At the beginning of the conflict, the smell of burned bodies, the hiss of missiles, as well as the feeling of not feeling safe, became the daily life of these six women. The only option was to flee at any cost, and they did.

Denmark, the land of second chances

Leaving a nation at war is not easy, whatever the continent. Nadia was already 11 years old when she, her mother, and sisters embarked on this dangerous mission. They paid a human smuggler to travel from Kabul to Pakistan in a minibus. From there they headed to Italy, with false passports, to finally reach Denmark hidden inside a truck. Quite an odyssey that had a path with a hopeful ending.

«Ningún menor debería pasar por esto, pero así es la vida. En ese momento no podía hacer nada, aunque ahora me siento feliz por haber tenido una segunda oportunidad y haber superado ese trauma gracias a mi fuerza mental». - Nadia Nadim

The adaptation in the Nordic country was complicated because before obtaining asylum they had to spend several months in different refugee camps. It was while there that she first visualized girls practicing soccer, in a field near the camp. Seeing them, she knew instantly that this was what she wanted to do, and he didn't stop until she got her first chances. Sometime later, Nadia stood out from the rest for her talent, fantasy with the ball, and above all for her perseverance.

A career on the rise

With two titles in her pocket with Hjørring, Nadia made the leap to the US league in 2014. During her time in North America, the forward wore the colors of two clubs: Sky Blue FC and Portland Thorns FC. Later she moved to England to have a brief internship with Manchester City before signing with Paris Saint-Germain, the team where she currently plays.

In addition to all this, the most important and emotional moment of her career was lived when debuting with the Danish National Team, thus becoming the first professional footballer to represent the country as a nationalized. The match, which took place on August 23, 2009, ended with a 1-0 defeat against Finland and where the Danish-Afghan played the last 18 minutes. "I am a mixture of two cultures, of two countries, I have both in me, I reflect it in the way I think. I am not 100% Afghan, nor 100% Danish," explains Nadia, who has printed on her ankle boots. the flags of Denmark and Afghanistan, as well as the motto vini, vidi, vinci.

«Conozco el valor de ayudar a una persona cuando no tiene esperanzas. Soy un recordatorio andante de eso. Toda la ayuda que me brindaron en mi vida me convirtió en la persona que soy hoy. Así que realmente quiero ofrecer esta ayuda». - Nadia Nadim en una entrevista a The Guardian

But the successful career of this female fighter is not only found on the court. At 33 years old, Nadia is close to completing her studies in Medicine with a specialty in reconstructive surgery, a profession she will be practicing when she retires from soccer. In addition, she has already confessed that her intention is to work with Doctors Without Borders in countries like Afghanistan and to be "someone's last hope."

As if that were not enough, Nadia is one of the few people who has the ability to speak up to nine languages. In addition, UNESCO chose her in 2019 as an ambassador for education for girls and women. Her incredible story is a source of inspiration for many girls, who see in her the living example that it is possible to fulfill dreams that seem unattainable. "Wherever I go, no matter the environment that surrounds me, I will conquer it," he assures with determination.