My name is Masoumeh Mohammadi, graduated from civil aviation in Air traffic controller from Afghanistan, I live in Kabul city, I am 24 years old and I am a mother of 3 months old son.
I am belongs to football family, my father and my brothers were used to play football, and now my husband is playing football in national team of Afghanistan.
I started playing football from a very young age, and I started playing professional football for 4 years now. I played in one of the women’s football club in Kabul and I played football in Kabul league, it was the time that I was selected and invited for the national team of Afghanistan.
When AFF invited me to Afghanistan women’s national football team, it was like a dream come true, because my father used to work in AFF, and sometimes I was going with him to AFF and I could see the women’s national football team was playing football in cold and snowing weather, or in very hot sunny summer.
I was in love with our women’s national team; I was always surprised, how passionate they are for that game. They were working hard for the national team, and since I was amazed of their love and hard work, even they had limited opportunities and limited resources and so many cultural barriers that they were facing in their daily life, but they were still playing football, that made me to start dreaming and working hard to join our national team, and stay strong for our own rights.
When I started playing football people where laughing on us and making fun of women’s football, people were insulting us as women football player, but I didn't give up, because I felt the strength and beauty of that game and the person and personality that football made me, it was/is impossible for barriers, and boundaries to stop me for playing football.
When I joined the national football team, I felt that I am one of the luckiest people in the world that I achieved my dream.
The time I enter the football pitch I forget all the problems and barriers as women that we are facing in our society.
I feel strong, happy, lucky, and free when I play football, and stay as a group together with my teammates.
Life has changed the meaning for me since I started playing football. I love to use football to empower women and women rights in our country. I love to use the opportunity, which I have to empower and help another women.
Today I carry C FIFA Coaching license, and I’m volunteer football coach for one of the orphanage center in Kabul, I coach girls in different age, some of my players are invited to the national team, and I am very happy and proud to see my players as teammates.
I am happy that my family are supportive and my husband is very supportive and he is encouraging me to play football. I feel very happy when he come wit my son to football field and watch me playing football and he support me, and the same when I go with my son when he play football we cheer for him.
When I compere my life with some of their women’s in Afghanistan and some of our players that they got married and after getting marriage they were not allowed to play football and end it being at home even they were not allowed to continue education and work, and some of our players don't want to get marriage because they don't want to risk their carrier and the love for the game, I feel sad for them.
After the changes, which is made in Afghanistan women’s national football team, and we got the foreigner coaches, and women coaches which is great I feel very happy and I am very positive about the future of Afghanistan women’s football.
Imagine with those problems and difficulties, which we face every day we didn't give up, now with this opportunities and support of coaches and if we even can manage to have training camps and friendly games, than nothing can stop as to reach in high level and touch the sky of success.
Afghanistan women’s national football team needs attention and support, we can get it, we can encourage support more women and girls to join this movement and we can bring a cultural change in our country, people will get use to see women in sports or active in society, we will be role models for the rest of the women’s in our country.
I love the mix of the Afghan women players, which is invited from outside of Afghanistan and inside of Afghanistan based on their talents to the national team, by arranging training camps we can learn from each other and transfer the knowledge and culture back in our country.
If this attention and support continues, I am sure soon we will reach our dreams to play in women world cup and bring pride to our beautiful and injured country Afghanistan.
Together we can change the image of our country, we will fight with our footballs against odds and against tourism, which changed the beautiful image of our country, we will change it back to a beautiful country, where all citizens will be allowed and free to practice their own choice and feel freedom, and peace.
My son is the future of Afghanistan that is why I bring him to the football pitch to see women playing football and to see men playing football, I want to educate him and I want him to be used to see women practicing the game that they love.
I want my son to learn to respect women, I want him to be the man that respect and accept women’s activity and women’s participation in society, and I want him to encourage women, and support women when he grow up.
I want to be a role model not only for women who do any sports, but also for mothers, to be a good teacher for their son’s and daughters, mothers are playing key role in changing society, they are the first teacher of their son’s.
My Name is Madina Azizi, I’m 21 years old, and I live in Kabul Afghanistan.
I have started playing football from childhood, when I was in one of primary schools in Iran. I lived many years with my family as refugee in Iran.
I played football at school for having fun, and as after school activities, until I watched the football match of Afghanistan VS Iran. Afghanistan played friendly game against Iran after Taliban regime.
I was very disappointed and very sad, I carried a lot after that game, and actually that game changed my thoughts and aim as playing football for fun to playing to a reason, playing for a mission, playing football for change.
The game that the Afghanistan Men’s National Football Team played against Iran National football team was very disappointed game, Afghanistan played very bad and Iran could score more than 20 goals. I was very happy to see our national team and cheer for them and I felt very happy and proud, but the happiness didn't last longer.
We found out that it was not a real national team; the team was selected based on relationship of the people who were governing body of sports in Afghanistan, on that time.
The jokes about Afghanistan National Football team was all around Iran, and the team and its football, became joke of the year in Iran. It wasn't a good experience for us as an Afghan refugee living in Iran. People started teasing as and making jokes on us, it was really annoying. I carried many days and there was a time that I said to myself one day I will play in my National team and bring pride home and I will show them what is a real football and real football player, and what is love for the nation and the country.
When we returned Afghanistan our own country; Afghanistan, I started playing football at school, I was 17 years old back than, our school sent us to one of the international football events in India, it was a football tournament.
Subroto cup is an International football tournament held in India, I played football there, we didn't win, but it was a great start of my journey, one of the coaches from National team was there and saw me playing, he selected me in National team.
I was at high school back than, when the national women’s football team was playing was really dreaming to play one day on our women’s National football team.
One day; I got a call from someone from Afghanistan football federation, that they invited me for the national team’s tryout. I didn't believe it, I was totally surprised I was telling to myself “ Madina wake up, this is not true”.
I went to tryouts and I passed and I was selected for the national team. It was like a dream come true.
I remember the day that the coach give me the national team uniform, I was so happy I was crying, while I was smiling, I couldn’t believe, that it can be true.
I wear the uniform I slept the entire night with my first national team’s uniform, I didn't wanted to take it off.
I was feeling different and especial; I was feeling proud and happy, when I had that uniform on.
I felt the freedom and success, when I got the opportunity to play for my country, and wear the national team uniform and play under the flag of my country, my own country Afghanistan.
Since, I started playing football in National team, my life has changed a lot. Football gave me different meaning of life. I see the world different, the meaning of life different, from what I used to see and feel before playing.
I feel I am at this planet to change something; I have a task in this planet to help and support and use all the opportunities, which I have to help other people and especially women from my own gender.
Football gave me the self-confidence, and power to take decisions in my life for my self.
Being women in Afghanistan is a challenge and playing football or doing any sport activities are even a bigger challenge, but I am not a person to give up.
I believe strong people and successful people work hard to achieve their dreams and they don't give up, I want to be one of those people.
As a women and as football player, I face difficulties and challenges, in our male dominated society, since Afghanistan been a war turn country for many decades, it has effected the country a lot, and it has changed the real culture of Afghanistan, that use to be peaceful country, with a lot of respect to women.
Its not even men who are against women’s development, but its also women who are against women. I think the violence of women against women are higher then men against women.
I was studying at school and then in colleague, my teachers knew that I was playing football, since I wearing that national uniform I changed my wearing style from girly outfit to sporty outfits, so my teachers were really against me, and the were insulting me many times.
My teachers were insulting me and seeing me as prostitute, it was/is really difficult for me to tell them that I love sports and I love my outfits and my wearing style, it’s because of the love, the love for football.
Many times my teachers kicked me out of class, it was not only male teacher, but also female.
I was hiding myself for hours and crying for the pressure and stress and insult that they gave me, and it was 100% discrimination.
I was the one giving huge to myself and I was the only one telling to myself” listen girl your strong, you can make it, these people are jealous, they cant do what I can, that is why they are against it. Don’t give up, clean your tears come out of the dark room, go to light give a smile to the world and tell them your dreams are bigger then their understanding and knowledge, they have to come up to understand you, because your not going down to explain them. Show them you can and you’re strong”.
I am very happy from the changes, which has been made, in national team, I am very happy that we got the women coaches and foreign coaches, the people that can understand our problem and understand our dreams and the people who are welling to help us to achieve our dreams, and bring pride to our national as a women.
We are optimistic about our future, and believe in our strengths and power as women, we will change the situation, which is right now for women in our country.
I want to be a role model for the new generations, as the other women is our role model.
I am proud school sports teacher, when my students come to me and tell me “ teacher I want to play for our national team like you do. I want to play football like you do and I want to be like you.” That is what makes me to work hard and be a good role model, because I believe in power of sports and I believe, if football changed my life and give me the strength; it will change the other women lives too.
One day we will play in women’s world cup, and I am sure there will be many people men and women will cheer for us, and there will be many people who will carry Afghan flag and wave for us.
My name is Mina Ahmadi, I'm 19 years old and live in a small town near Hamburg in Germany with my mother, my brother and two sisters. I was born and raised in Germany after my parents fled from Afghanistan in 1992 due to the war.
First, my parents went to Moscow where my father had a house. Being a professional wrestler and part of the Afghan national team himself, he often travelled to Russia to participate in competitions. With time, he provided the necessary support to also help my mother’s family to flee to Moscow. In 1995, they went to live in Germany where I was born. Here, I was brought up to both embrace the western culture and the Afghan culture.
Having grown up with an older brother who played football himself, I was fascinated with this sport at an early age. While watching my older brother play in his team, I discovered my interest to start football myself and soon started to always play on the sideline. My parents saw my growing interest in football so they let me start playing in a club. Their support was immense and my football games soon began to be a family activity on the weekend, my whole family used to always watch every game of me. I loved it and they loved it!
Football was always a part of my life and became my passion in a very early age. The support I received from not only my family but from my coaches, teammates and their families had a huge impact on my affinity to football. They made it possible for me to keep going when things got difficult, so the huge support and my love in playing this sport kept me going. And by now, I can’t imagine living my life without football and hopefully never have to.
Until I got in contact with the team I have never come across any Afghan female soccer players, I thought that many girls weren't allowed to play or just didn't have any interest to do so. So to be told that there even is an Afghan national team was very surprising. Manija was the one who introduced me to the idea of playing in the national team, she approached me during a football tournament in Hamburg and told me all about the team and their goals. She asked if I would want to be part of the team, I really am thankful that she did and that I was soon selected in the player pool because meeting so many other female Afghans who share the same strive to play soccer and being assisted by such a professional staff is a really great experience. You ultimately forge a whole new connection to your motherland and family who is filled with pride to see their home country in such a good light and you representing it.
Being part of this team is really special because by playing soccer on this level together we are going to exceed all boundaries. It connects people in every corner of the world and serves as a strong tool to encourage peace, passion and equality worldwide.
We share not only the same origin, language but also the same passion, and (even more important) the humor.
With that high level of motivation from everyone I am sure that we will succeed in our preparations for the SAFF games and that we will end up facing our opponents as a union. All of us will give their very best in order to accomplish something great with our team!
Marjan Haydaree is 18 years old and lives in San Francisco, CA
I started playing soccer when I was 11 years old. My older sister played soccer since she was 5 so I always went to her games. Growing up, I was always really athletic but just did gymnastics. I just loved playing basketball, soccer, baseball at school. I was really hyper, but not on any competitive teams.
I started playing with a local Afghan team in Concord called Aria Club. They didn’t have an age group for me so I started playing with a U-16 team when I was 10 or 11, so I was always playing with older girls. We would scrimmage with the boys team and that’s how I started playing soccer. We would play tournaments against different teams from California, it was all local Afghan teams but the ages ranged from U-5 to over 35 men.
We played in local tournaments, each time it was more competitive because our team worked hard and we improved and were eventually able to win tournaments.
2009 was when the AFFWNT coach first came to California. He chose 5 or 6 players to join the team, my sister and I were two of them. I was too young, only 11 so I couldn’t go to the SAFF games, but my sister could because she was 16. I was pretty heartbroken, but I was happy my sister could go and represent us at the games.
In 2011, I was 13 and they asked me to go to Qatar for a friendly match. That was the first time I got to meet all the girls. It was a little hard for me and my farsi isn’t that good, so it was hard for me to communicate but it was a good experience seeing a new culture and environment and learning from their stories, it was totally new for me.
We won that game in Qatar 2-0 and I scored, which was a really great feeling, scoring for my national team.
I went with the AFFWNT again for the second SAFF games in Sri Lanka in 2012, and we ended up in the semifinals but lost. I scored 2 goals that tournament, against Pakistan and Nepal.
I went for another tournament, the SAFF Championships in Pakistan and that was 2014. I got to meet more players from Europe and got to meet new girls from Afghanistan and we got to practice a couple times. It’s pretty hard to do well because we’re all so spread out and come together and it’s hard to play as a team without a lot of practice time. I scored one goal against Bangladesh in that tournament.
From my last trip, we went to Japan for a friendly peace match with one of the local Japanese teams. This was by far my favorite trip. Japan showed us about Hiroshima and were trying to demonstrate how they rebuilt and show us that it is possible to rebuild from what has happened in Afghanistan. We got to go to high schools and middle schools and we went to both professional soccer and baseball games.
I used to play for La Morinda, a club team in the Bay Area, for 3 to 4 years and also played on my high school Varsity team for all 4 years. This year I tore my ACL, so it’s been about 5 months since my surgery. That was really hard for me, my sister had torn her ACL before so I knew what I was going through so it was tough and emotional but as time has passed I knew that I’d be okay.
For now, I’ve been doing a lot of rehab and trying to get back into shape. I will also be training for Long Beach State University. Unfortunately, I can’t play at the training camp but I am excited to be there participating with the team.
John DeWitt is the AFFWNT's Fitness Coach.
Being able to compete at the highest levels requires substantial work and sacrifice from everyone on the team. Coaches have to prepare training plans that will best make the players ready for competition. The medical staff have to ensure that players are healthy, rehab properly, and complete the work necessary for regeneration between matches and training sessions. Technical staff have to make sure that all necessary planning and details are addressed. Players have to complete the required team and individual work necessary to be able to play at peak levels.
When working with professional and national teams, attention to detail is critical for success. At these levels, all players, coaches, and staff are the best – it is often the small things that separate those who succeed from those who fail. Don’t get me wrong – the big things matter a lot – but it is the small details that are often the most critical.
My role with the AFFWNT is to assist in preparing the players for the physical requirements of competition. I have similar roles with the Houston Dynamo Academy and Houston Dash. With the Dynamo Academy and Dash, I have been working with the players for many seasons. I spend a lot of time designing programs for players to complete on their own during breaks, and I oversee the physical training that occurs during sessions in the season. I also have many instances where individual players contact me, usually by text or email, asking for advice on individual training sessions that they can complete on their own. It is this interaction with the players that I have come to appreciate most with my role.
Football requires a lot of physical preparation for the players. The obvious traits are endurance, speed, strength, agility, balance, and explosiveness. There are more, but these are the ones that people think of most of the time when they think of a fit player. Some of these characteristics have genetic limits, but all can be improved with training.
Preparing the team for our upcoming training camps has been a little different than most teams, because players are coming from all over the world and from various training backgrounds. However, for me, this is business as usual because of that I am used to doing with my other teams.
While I want players to be in the best shape possible in all of the physical categories, the one that matters most is the ability to perform high speed actions throughout the entire match. Because of the way our body’s work, we can’t stay at our highest speed indefinitely. We have to take breaks and recover, between explosive actions. When we get more fit, though, three things happen:
1) We recover between powerful actions more quickly; 2) We can continue a high speed action longer; and 3) We can continue to complete high speed actions longer throughout a match.
In order to prepare the players for training camp, we have sent them two training plans. One was for July and one was for August. They are at the bottom of this post if you want to see what the players have been doing.
The plans are relatively simple, and just require hard work and dedication. They can be completed with or without a ball, at a field or in open space or in a gym, and with an individual or groups. The player are responsible for completing the plans, and in many cases they do more. We also have a generous sponsorship from Fit For 90, which allows the players to fill out a web-based questionnaire to report their health and progress. I, along with the staff, monitor this daily and follow up with any player reporting injury, soreness, or other issues.
I also have had the players complete a fitness test every other week so we can monitor there progress. When we get to camp in California, we will have some specific fitness tests that I will have the players complete. However, to make it simple for the players our current preseason test is a 1.6km run. I want to see two things with this test. The first is a goal of 6:00 or less for the distance. The second is some improvement from test to test. I chose this test because it allows me to measure their maximal aerobic speed – a technical term that essentially tells us how explosive a player is for a longer period of time.
I have been impressed with the players performing this test. Most players end up using their phone and an app to measure distance and time, and simply text me a screen shot after they are finished. I haven’t had any other team or player report to me like this, and I immediately took to this creativity and ingenuity of the team. What a great tool!
Overall, I am so excited to work with these dedicated and special players and coaches. All have undertaken a great challenge that will make history. This is a very important challenge that I am proud to be a part of.
I am 23 years old. I started playing football when I was 14 years old. I started playing football to learn and play school which was run by German football association on that time. I was the top scorer and top player of my club; I used to be the Captain of my club.
Football changed my life and my personality. Football made me a very strong fighter and a strong woman; a woman with passion & goals. I used football as a tool to stand against all obstacles and problems, which I was/I am facing as woman in a male dominated country like Afghanistan.
Football is a very important part of my life, which I am happy and proud of. When I am thinking about life without football, it will be very boring.
When I was selected at the national team of Afghanistan, I was feeling very proud, and crying. it was like a dream come true. I was flying from happiness.
In 2014 I became the Captain of the national team that was one of the greatest moments of my life, when the coach gave me the Captain band.
Being a Captain of the national team is a huge responsibility, and a source of pride for me. Being a leader was not easy for me at a young age. Leading my team and trying to be united to play under the flag of our beautiful country was a honor for me.
My family and friends are very proud of me and they always support me to be strong and to fight for my rights as a woman and as a human.
Playing football in a male dominated country like Afghanistan is not easy, the death threats and cultural obstacles that we face that never makes us feel weak and never stop us for dreaming for our future as woman.
Football makes me happy and it gives me power to stand as a strong woman and take active part in society.
When I compare my life now to when I was 8 years old, I wanted so much to play football with street kids, I didn’t have shoes and football to play, because my family could not afford to pay. Now there are a lot of opportunities for women’s football to stand together and play for their country in an international level.
With new and positive changes in women’s football we are very happy and optimistic about future of Afghanistan women’s football.
It is first time that we have professional women coaches, so many good activities and plans has been schedule for women’s national team, which is great and it shows it self that women’s football is developing.
I believe together we can bring positive changes in our country and also changes for the current situation of women in our country.
My dream is to have more women clubs from all over Afghanistan and also a good league for women’s football.
I believe together we will win the SAFF championship and we will bring pride home.
Nilofar Yaqoubi is 24 years old. She was born in Masar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan and is currently living in Delft, The Netherlands.
I studied fashion, styling and design in Den Haag. My interest has always been in fashion so I started to make it a hobby of mine. This hobby kind of got out of hand and now I have my own fashion blog with 87K followers. I visit a lot of fashion shows, do some styling and give advice. My goal, what I’m working up to, is that one day I can have my own fashion line. To read my blog, click here.
At the age of five, my mother, brother, sister and myself left Afghanistan through Pakistan to get to The Netherlands.
For my mother, alone with three children, it was a very hard journey. When we got to The Netherlands, we were reunited with my grandparents. My grandparents left a few years before we did and later we were also reunited with my father who joined us in The Netherlands.
We didn’t know a lot of people so my parents decided to sign us up for gymnastic classes. That way we could socially develop and learn what self-discipline meant. For our parents it was important that their children be strong and firm in life. Gymnastics is a sport for individuals, not a team sport, you have to work hard and your results are your own responsibility. It is you that has to work hard; there are no team players behind which you can hide when you’re having an off-day.
I was good in what I did, participated in a lot for competitions and won a lot of trophies. Winning all the time was getting boring, I needed a new challenge so I decided to start to play football. Pretty soon I found out that I really liked this game and when I had to choose between gymnastics and football, I chose football, even though a lot of people consider this being a sports for boys.
I play at VV SEP Delft, we train twice a week and play a game during the weekend. Besides football practice, I try to work out every day to keep in shape and improve my physical condition.
Bahara and I were looking for players using social media so we could participate at the tournament in Amsterdam. This way we started to get to know other Afghan girls and their love for football. In 2014 we were invited to participate in the SAFF in Pakistan. Because the planned training camp before SAFF was canceled, we (Wida, Sahar and I) decided to meet up in Dubai and get to know each other. We played football at the beach and developed an understanding of trust amongst us. During the SAFF, we stayed for 12 days at a luxury sports facility. All participating teams were staying there and that made it difficult to get enough field time for training.
After SAFF, there were some negative comments about some of the pictures taken during the tournament. We were playing in shorts pants and short sleeves, a lot of Afghan people still have a problem that girls do this. I’m so thankful that my family is so supportive in what I do, in me playing football. They are so proud I made it to the selection of the Afghan Women’s National Team.
I believe that it’s very important to be well prepared before a game. Without experience playing together, without a chance to become a solid team, it will reduce your chances to book good results. It’s also very important that each individual in a team has the right motivation, is taking this serious and has sufficient self-discipline to get in top shape for the team.
I’m very motivated and think it’s wonderful that our national team is getting a new chance. With a new staff and new professional trainers on board, I feel we can get far. I feel we could make it to the next SAFF finals.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play in California. I’m still recovering from surgery on my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) but already working hard to get back on that field.
Although I won’t be able to play, I will be there in California to be with my team to support them, to get to know everybody and to be part of it.
For me winning is not about winning a game. To have a strong team, a team that works together, good team spirit and seeing your team grow and develop, …… that, for me means WINNING!
Hajar is 23 years old.
I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I am now a fifth year medical student at Khatam-al-Nabieen University. I grew up and survived through very difficult times. Because of the Soviet invasion of my country in 1979, my family and I were forced to seek refuge in Iran where we were met with new and serious hardships.
We suffered such economic losses that we went hungry and homeless.
I started playing soccer at the age of 12. Everyone made fun of me in the community. Under pressure, I stopped playing for 4 years. But at age 16, I had a second chance to play at school. Again the teachers insulted me for it, my sport instructor was my lone supporter.
One morning, I arrived late to class because I was training very early around 5 am. After two hours of training, I rushed to class with two heavy bags – one for books, and the other for sports clothes. When I arrived at the doorstep, I took a deep breath and went in. I was just 5 or 6 minutes late but the teacher stared at me, anger lines deforming her forehead. “Get out of here! What are you a boy or a girl? Get lost and go kicking in the field.”
Besides my parents, no one supported me in my family. Some said my playing was against the rules of Islam and that a Muslim woman is not allowed to play publicly. My wearing a hijab didn’t change anything.
They weren’t thinking about me but about themselves. I strongly disagreed with my family and instead I decided to keep practicing and show people an Afghan girl can play and challenge the world.
Things were not easy in the field either. Among other slanders, many would call me “a boy” always abusing and harassing me. Once, I was called a “Westerner” as a insult and hit with a stone that made my head bleed.
Another time, I had a football competition, but we had relatives staying at our home. Our guests would not allow me to leave home to attend the preplanned game. I ran away through the window and played anyway.
Football has became a very important part of my life, and since there has been changes in national team, and we got new coaches, and a very strong group of women is leading the team and management of the team I am very happy and I can see positive changes. Now I can see that our dreams are coming true.
I believe together we will win and bring pride home!
Written by Maryam Qasemi:
On Saturday 16 July, there was an Afghan European football tournament in Koln, The Afghan Cup Koln. Our staff decided that it was a good opportunity to promote our National Women’s team and to do some fundraising as well.
Stas Hub, our Technical Director, came to pick me up at my home so my parents invited her for breakfast before going to Koln. During breakfast we got to know each other better and talked about our project, the Afghan Women’s National Football Team.
When we got to Koln we presented us to Mr. Zamani, organizer of the tournament, he told us where we could set up. Bahara and Rina were also present; they traveled with Bahara’s brother who was participating in the tournament with his team. Last time we saw each other was at the Amsterdam event so I was very happy to see them again. We talked a lot, watched some games and played a bit with a football as well.
It was nice to see the teams play and it gave us the urge to play as well, getting on that field and play football.
We drew a lot of attention being there. A lot of people didn’t realize that Afghanistan has a Women’s National team. Hearing this made me a little sad but it gave me also a boost to go out there and let everybody know.
A lot of people wanted to take pictures with us when they found out that we play for the National team. Think we have some new fans.
We also did a few interviews for local newspapers and a TV channel, I’m sure that we now will reach even more people. During the interviews I explained that we, as Afghan women, can play as well and that not only men can do this.
As we explained our project we received a lot of positive comments, compliments and moral support from players and spectators. A few people had a negative point of view but we made sure that by the time we were done talking to hem they had changed their minds. And if there were still negative comments, we just concentrated on the positive reactions.
We also met with the coach of the AFF Men’s National Team, Peter Sergt and one of his players Masih Saighani.
It was a pleasure to see that we all stand together as a Nation even though our country is bleeding. We all want what is best for each other.
My parents and my little brother joined us later that day and could see me shine; see me being happy, representing our team.
It was a nice day with nice and friendly people and it was a lot of fun.
We felt a bit like being famous and they even made us sign two footballs, my first experience in handing out signatures.
It was an honor being there as a player of the Afghan Women’s National team.
Khalida Popal is a former captain of the Afghan National Team, former head of the women’s football committee and finance committee of the Afghan Football Federation AFF, now founder of Girl Power Organization, program and event director of Afghanistan women’s football committee and working for Hummel International as a project coordinator in Denmark.
“I have risked my life for playing football and standing up for women’s rights. I even had to leave my country, my family and my lovely teammates in order to survive,” said Popal.
To Khalida, who grew up in a highly conflict-struck area in Afghanistan, football has always been more than a means of distraction. Very early in life, her passion leads her to being discriminated against. When she was a kid and playing on the school ground, people who watched her from outside of the school walls, offended her using annoying and insulting words.
Khalida decided to address these circumstances and fought for the visibility and the media coverage of women’s football in Afghanistan. Football became her way of political expression and her basis for human and women’s rights activism. To her, football was the only way to fight for women’s rights and to bring about change in society. By doing this, she faced extreme social opposition and had to leave her home country. But that didn’t stop Khalida to move forward, and work for her country and her team:
“When I became as a first woman leader in Afghanistan football association, I had one dream for my team that was “ to have professional coaches and have a professional national team as the rest of the countries around the world have” I wanted to get the opportunity for my team to experience high level and standard level of training as the rest of the national teams have.
“I am very happy and proud to have excellent coaches and staff in team, who works days and night to help us to achieve our goals and dreams.
“We fought and risked our life to get the right to play football, now we are fighting to achieve our goals and bring pride for our homeland.
“I believe that football is a means that can mobilize women to form a united front, to have a strong voice and to overcome barriers in a joint effort.
"I moved forward to prove that girls can be strong in their decisions and that they cannot only work and study but they can also do any sports they want.”