I am 23 years old and I started playing football when I was 14. I started playing football to learn the game and I played in school which was run by German football association at that time. I was the top scorer and top player of my club; I also used to be the Captain.
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/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 for 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. When the coach gave me the Captain band, was one of the greatest moments of my life.
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 an 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, will never weaken or stop us in 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 on 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 the first time we have professional women coaches and so many good activities and plans have been scheduled for women’s national team, which is great. It shows 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 towards, 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 are 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 and there are no team players so you can not hide, when you’re having an off-day.
I was good at what I did. I participated in a lot competitions and won a lot of trophies. Winning all the time was getting boring and I needed a new challenge so I decided to start playing football. Pretty soon I found out that I really liked this game. When I had to choose between gymnastics and football, I chose football. Even though a lot of people consider this, 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 with girls doing this. I’m so thankful that my family is so supportive in what I do. They are so proud I made it to the selection of the Afghan Women’s National Team.
I believe 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 I am already working hard on getting 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 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 met 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 and my sport instructor was my only 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 with books and the other 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, with 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. Since the changes to the national team and with the new coaches, the team has become a very strong group of women who is leading the team. Management of the team is also better and I am very happy. I can see positive changes and 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 July 16, 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 were introduced 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 of getting on that field to play football.
We drew a lot of attention being there. A lot of people didn’t realise that Afghanistan has a Women’s National team. Hearing this made me a little sad. However it also gave me a boost, to go out there and let everyone know.
When they found out that we play for the National team, a lot of people wanted to take pictures with us. I 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 the game is not only for men.
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 they could see me shine, see me be happy when I represented our team.
It was a nice day with nice and friendly people and it was a lot of fun.
We felt a bit famous and they even made us sign two footballs. This was 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 former captain of the Afghan National Team and former head of the women’s football committee and finance committee of the Afghan Football Federation AFF. She is now founder of Girl Power Organisation, 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 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 lead her to being discriminated against. When she was a kid playing on the school ground, people watched her from outside of the school walls, while they offended her by 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 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 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 my team, who works days and nights, to help us achieve our goals and dreams".
“We fought and risked our lifes 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 mobilise 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.” - Khalida
Aorzala "Oreo" Atmar is 16 years old and lives in California.
I was born into a family of soccer, my parents, uncles and cousins all play currently and have been playing soccer their whole lives - I already had their love of soccer for my entire life.
I started playing when I was 7 and also have a black belt in taekwondo. Once I got my black belt a few years ago, I really began to focus on soccer. I play on Impact Soccer League, an NPL team, so soccer takes up a lot of my time.
Like a lot of other girls on this team, my parents moved from Afghanistan because of the war. My mom moved to America before my dad did. My dad went to Pakistan during the war and when the war was over, returned to Afghanistan to continue his work as a doctor. When he came to America, I was born and saw him try to get his job back as a doctor in the US and fight to keep his career without having to go back to school. A lot of my drive and push to keep fighting came from watching my dad’s determination to keep his career.
I work a lot with community service, and soccer is really big here in Brentwood, so soccer is always present in my life.
When I found out I made the team, I was so excited. I found out on Father’s Day so I joked with my dad if I even needed to get him a gift, because what more could he want?
I’ve always played with Afghan soccer, it is a really big community here in California with annual tournaments and everyone got together and felt like a community again, not only were you playing soccer but you were able to speak Farsi and play soccer and have people understand you! When we get together, it’s passionate and we show that we can put the tournament together and be a community. That’s part of the reason why I’m so excited to go to the training camp with all the girls.
We all have that national heritage and that fire that we all want to represent Afghanistan and that will be nice because we all share that passion for sport and it will be amazing to come together and represent Afghanistan.
Because I live in Brentwood and don’t live in Afghanistan, I’m taking this team to represent Afghanistan in some way, and to represent it through my passion makes it even better. Even representing them through this team is a big part for me to provide a connection and feel like I’ve done something to make them proud.
My cousin played on the men’s national team, and when I knew we could do that, people from America could play, I was 13 and I really wanted to do this. I had no idea how to get there until I met Coach Haley Carter at my tournament and that was my spark, I really wanted to do this and I have my opportunity and I need to take it.
Bahara Qoerayshie, 21 years old, was born in Kabul and currently is living in Best, Eindhoven (The Netherlands).
I guess soccer kind of runs in the family. My father was a goalkeeper and played indoor soccer just like my older brother. Because I joined them a lot, watching their game, I started to feel the urge to play soccer myself. Before, I played volleyball, handball, took judo and taekwondo classes, but none of these sports where giving me the satisfaction I was looking for. When I told my parents that I wanted to play soccer as well my dad asked me; “why soccer Bahara, why not stay with volleyball? In 2008 I joined the club “the Wilhelmina boys” and currently I play with Best Vooruit. I play both soccer and indoor soccer. I like indoor soccer because your more involved in the game and because it’s a very tactical game.
When I found out about the multi-cultural tournament taking place in Amsterdam, I started to gather around a team of Afghan girls so we could participate in this tournament. This year, we participated for the second time and I can see a positive evolution. The team is much better, stronger, and better organized now. By starting this team, I got to know more girls and created a special bond with them.
Due to the scouting in Amsterdam by a delegation of the National Afghan Women’s team, I got into to the selection of the 32 players.
Being part of that selection is like a dream coming true.
One day I was chatting with Khalida Popal using the chat function on Facebook. She told me that the Afghan Federation announced the selection of the 32 girls. I looked it up, saw my name on it, took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. I wanted everybody to know.
My family was so proud me being part of the selection for the National team, our own National Women's Soccer Team! I always wished for Afghanistan to be represented with a women's national team and now we were given this opportunity.
A couple of years ago, I was talking with Shabnam Mobarez, I told her that it would be great to have our own National Team, and look now! Here we are.
I’m happy and honored that there are people out there who believe in us and started this project. I know it will take a lot of hard work to get to the final selection of 23 but I will do anything in my power to make it. It will take self-discipline, respect, and sacrifice to make this work. I hope that the other girls understand this and hope they will take part in this project with the same attitude.
We still have a long way to go before we reach our goal, just like my father had to go a long way to get us all to The Netherlands, just to assure our future. My father left Kabul, traveled to Pakistan, Russia and many more countries to get to The Netherlands. When he was granted asylum, granted permanent residence, we joined him in The Netherlands. Although it wasn’t easy, my father never gave up and achieved his goal, bringing his family to safety.
I’m a lot like my father; I will never give up either. I want the Afghan National Women’s Soccer team to go all the way and to show Afghanistan that we women can also bring pride to the country. I want the team to win the South Asian Football Federation Championship in November, get attention, and show the entire world.
I want to contribute in this, be part of this. I want to send a message to the world. Afghan girls or women are not supposed to sit at home. I want to motivate the Afghan girls to go out there, chase your dreams, go do sports, fight for what you want in life but most of all,….believe in yourselves and NEVER GIVE UP because…YES WE CAN!!!!!
I am a 20 year-old girl, I have been playing soccer for 5-6 years. I am also coaching one of refugee teams in Denmark.
My love and passion for soccer started when I came to Denmark as an immigrant back in 2003. I was a young girl when I first embarked upon my love of soccer. I used to play with boys before even thinking twice about my gender or segregating myself in any other way.
Back in those days and even today, soccer to me is equivalent to dance. Dance is an expressive art, just like music, poetry or paintings - and soccer to me is that holy of art.
Dancing with my feet to tune of the ball, gives me a pleasure no one will understand. Throughout the years, I have visited other countries, besides Afghanistan where I have been able to interact with the people that admire soccer. Most of them are young girls with a similar dream. I hear their stories of pursuing their goals for the future. I see the thrill of emotions they each uphold as they speak of their aspirations, and it reminds me of where I have come from. I hope that I can inspire these girls, not just for a future in soccer, but as a lesson that hard work, dedication, and a little hope goes a long way.
Hosna Korishi’s passion for football started at the age of 10, playing football with the boys during class breaks:
When I was 11, we went to visit my grandmother in Iran for holiday. My uncle went outside to play football in the street with some boys and I also wanted to play. It was not common for girls to play in the street, let alone to play with boys. I asked my grandmother to convince the boys so I could play football with them, they agreed.
As an 11 year old girl, I was breaking the rules in a country where this kind of freedom is very limited, and that only to play football.
A couple of years later I signed up with a club, OSM 75 Maarssen for which I played for 4 years. Then I transferred to VV Maarssen and played for almost 5 years for this club. While studying labor laws at the Free University of Amsterdam, I played on their indoor soccer team for one year. I finished my Bachelor of Laws (LLB) two years ago and currently finishing up my Master of Laws (LLM), specialization in labor law.
I got to The Netherlands with my parents, my younger brother and sister due to the Taliban’s oppression in Afghanistan. Twenty years ago, we left Kabul. I was only 3 years olf and don’t remember much about that time.
My father and mother told me it was no longer safe to live in Kabul and that’s why we left. My father was an art painter as well as teaching art painting, but upon the resurgence of Taliban rule in 1996, the ban on most forms of art and cultural expression was immediately implemented. When the Taliban captured Kabul, my father was deprived of the right to paint and teach. Life became unbearable and dangerous for him and his family. That’s when my parents decided to leave Afghanistan in search of a safe place to live and to ensure us a future.
Traveling with other people, hitchhiking, using all kinds of transportation, we travelled from Russia, crossing many countries until we got to The Netherlands, where my uncle was waiting for us. It was for us nice to see a familiar face in this new, strange environment.
Once we were settled in The Netherlands, my parents travelled back to Afghanistan to visit their relatives still living there. I wasn’t allowed to go with them because they wouldn’t let me. They are care to much for me and think it’s not a good idea for me to go out there.
In 2015 I saw that they were looking for Afghan girls, playing football, to participate for the first time in a multicultural tournament in Amsterdam. I volunteered and met other football playing Afghan girls for the first time. The next year I was invited to participate again. Our second participation in 2016 in this tournament was with a much better team than the first time.
After our last game at the tournament, Coach Kelly Lindsey and assistant coach Haley came to talk to us. They motivated us and said; “I saw some good things on the field, if you all work even harder, than we will meet us in California end of august”. First we couldn’t believe what she said so we turned to Haley and asked her; “is that true? Are we going to California? Can we be part of the national Afghan Team?
When the AFF announced the list of the 32 players that made it to the roster and I saw my name on it, I was so happy and excited. I had to tell all my friends and posted a message on Facebook I wanted everybody to know. My parents were so proud that they told the rest of the family about my achievement. My mom is very happy for me but is not looking forward missing me for the time we will be in the US training.
I know it will not be a holiday or a pleasure trip to California. I know that it will be hard work and that I have to prove to my coaches that I can be one of the final 23.
I’m looking forward meeting all the girls in California and to build a strong, coherent team. I want us, to be the proof that we as Afghan women, can bring pride to our country.
But before I get to the US, I have to train hard, improve my physical condition and make sure that I will be top fit when I will check in my bags for California.
Roya Noori is 20 years old, living as a refugee in Stockholm Sweden, since 2011.
I started football back in 2004 and made football as career and goal for success and empowerment in my life.
I struggled a lot in my life in order to continue living and also football career. I was a child that had to work in order to help my family.
I lost my father due to sickness that my family couldn’t afford to pay the doctors. I was going to school after school and was coaching sports in House for Orphanage. And I was walking miles to go for training football.
I have played football for the national team of Afghanistan for 2 years. I faced problems and death threats from my relatives until I had no chance of living in my country.
I left my country and my family to flee to Sweden, Stockholm. Life was not easy without family and living away from your country in an early age.
Nothing is better than playing football, I continued playing football in one of the top youth club in Sweden (IK club), and in the meantime I is studying and working in Sweden.
Now I have once again chance to play football for my country and bring pride to my country. It is my dream come true, I was waiting for a long time to get the chance once again to play for my country and today I got it, nothing can stop me to reach my dreams, even death threats.