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