Nadia Nadim on women’s football in Afghanistan one year on from Taliban takeover
In 2014, Nadia Nadim moved to Kabul with her family with the aim of starting a football academy. Their first season was an unqualified success, and Nadim, now a Women’s Football International Development Officer with the World Bank, says that the Taliban era hasn’t impeded the progress being made on the international stage.
“I think people forget the importance of football during the Taliban regime,” Nadim says. “I think most Afghans think football is a women’s game … and the Taliban really put the sport and football in a bad light for us.”
Football’s place in Afghanistan’s collective imagination is an often-overlooked topic at the UN and Women’s World Cup in Canada, the United States and Mexico in the next few months.
In 2011, 11 players walked off the pitch before games in the World Cup, in protest at the male players’ treatment of women, and in 2007, 15 Afghanistan women went to the stadium before three World Cup finals to support their countrymen.
But with a new team in the tournament, and with the progress of women’s football still being measured with the eye of the moment, Nadim knows that Afghanistan can now feel more at ease.
“The biggest change we have made in the last few months is that people no longer look at us as being a problem country,” Nadim says.
“From the last World Cup, it was one of the main things people looked at. We were in one of the World Cup finals and people were looking at us as the country that is full of women’s football problems.
“But now, we’re going to the World Cup, and people are looking at us as a country that has achieved so much in women’s football. The World Cup here gives us a lot of attention.”
‘To be a hero’
In the year since becoming a development officer with the World Bank, Nadim has spent time on a number of important issues.
“I think the most important thing I have been able to do is to share the lessons learned from Afghanistan with the rest of the world,” says Nadim, who recently returned from the Women’s World Cup in Canada, where Afghanistan was ranked third in the regional competitions for women’s football.
“When women are able to express themselves freely in football, that’s good for development to see these girls able to grow