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!