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.