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.
In 2008 I was introduced to this amazing group of women and their journey to do something, that at that time, I completely took for granted: playing a game, competing with passion and pursuing excellence.
I had never been told I could not play, compete, get dirty, pursue my goals and dreams.
In 2008, I was coaching at the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA) and got the true pleasure of working with and coaching Roya Noori, a current player on our Afghanistan WNT Pool.
I found the story of the Afghanistan Women’s Team very fascinating. A small group of women who could not sit on the sidelines and watch their lives and hopes and dreams be controlled by someone else.
What was just a game of soccer, a moment to play and build friendships, turned into a movement for a voice, for hope, for equality.
Sometimes it amazes me that such a simple game, played across the world could inspire hope, change, dreams and empowerment, but that is the power of the beautiful game!
Growing up, sports kept me motivated, driven, and dreaming. Sports encouraged me to keep my grades up, to work hard in whatever I tried. Sports empowered my mind, body, and soul. It challenged me daily, kept me driven to get just a little better, work just a little harder, try a little more at everything!
Sports became a place of HOPE for me!
I realized my strength, courage, confidence, character, work ethic, attitude, respect, and leadership abilities were all instilled through my years of struggle and strife in sport.
These intangible values and skills made me a better person, helped me overcome great obstacles, trained me to NEVER QUIT in life, no matter what the circumstances.
I do not remember many trophies, awards, or accolades in my career, I do not remember interviews or highlights, none of these moments stick in my brain, my heart, my soul.
What I remember, the stories that pop up in my darkest of days is the spirit of struggle and strife, it is the spirit of camaraderie and overcoming great obstacles as a team, united against all odds.
When the world around us told us we were no good, we were the underdogs, we would surely lose and in that one moment a group of individuals could become one heartbeat, could work in amazing unison, could conquer the world in front of us and succeed.
Team is expressed in many ways, but once you are apart of a great one, you never forget!
I laid my body on the line many of times for my teams, not because I wanted to win but because I wanted to see my teammates smile, cheer, celebrate.
All those hours training alone in the sleet, rain, snow, heat, humidity, all alone in a place far from my teammates, those moments build character for life, those moments challenged me. Who I was when no one else was watching!
Would I let my teammates down, or would I run that extra sprint, do the extra hour, because when I crossed the finish line with my teammates, I wanted them to know they could count on me – no matter what the challenge or circumstance we faced.
No book could teach me that, to unite my inner fire and push me beyond my limits, these are life skills that could only be learned on the pitch – sometimes together – sometime alone – but always with the image of a team celebration at the end.
That is what this experience for this team is all about.
Growing up with sports, I had the freedom to dream and my dreams were always supported.
That is what this journey is for this team, for this group of amazing women.
No matter where we go, we need to support the dream.
Because with great dreams come great futures!
People who aspire, and believe in the beauty of big dreams go on to do great things both big and small.
I have no doubt that one dream sparks another!
Support the dream, trust that your support matters and know you are all making a difference.
It may not happen today, but in 30 years you will be able to look back and know you sparked the fire to be the change you wish to see!
Thanks for your energy, enthusiasm, and support for this great team!
I left my country; when I was only 7 years old, and we left Afghanistan because of civil war.
I left Afghanistan with my family, to Uzbekistan. We were living as a refugee there. I started playing football with my brothers in Uzbekistan, while our family was struggling to start life from scratch.
Life was not easy as refugee, in a strange country, with a different language and no friends.
The only activity which we had was football. I was keeping the goal for my brothers, and I was their goalkeeper.
I choose to play football because my brothers were playing football, and since then football became a part of my life.
After a period we had to move from Uzbekistan to different countries, and then to Sweden as refugee. I didn’t like moving from one place to another place from one country to another, because every time when we were moving I was missing my friends, my dreams.
I didn’t like starting life from scratch, and all over again. We were tired of moving, we wanted to settle down feel home somewhere in this part of the world. Somewhere I could feel like “ NOW I can have my own home, I can start dreaming, and I don’t need to say goodbye to my friends”.
When we moved to Sweden and settled there my brothers encouraged me to start playing football professionally and join a football club.
I started playing in a Swedish club when I was 13 years old, since then I have been playing football professionally.
I also played football for one season for one of the best women’s football club in the Maldives as a goalkeeper.
In 2014 was invited to Afghanistan women’s national team, it was like a dream come true. I was feeling very proud and happy and my family was proud of me. I joined the Afghanistan women’s national team for the SAFF 2014 championship games, with so much excitement and joy.
When I entered first time in an international game with the national team of my country, I felt lucky I felt very proud of myself. I was happy that I got the opportunity to play for my own country.
When our national anthem was played and the flag of my country was waving in blue sky, I was crying, my heart was beating for my country. I had the feeling of power as woman I could bring pride to my country, and I was happy that I had right to do something good for my country, for my own country where I belong.
After my first experience in national team of Afghanistan I was not happy with the management and structure of the national team. I could see that women are under pressure, I read negative comments and feedback in social media, when it was something about women’s football.
I didn’t give up I said to myself “ even though it’s not easy, it will take a lot of effort and energy, I won’t give up. I will play and bring pride home and I stand with football and raise my voice for women.”
I always had a wish for the national team of Afghanistan to experience football on a professional level, and have the opportunity to bring modern football techniques in Afghanistan football.
Now we are very happy that we have professional and experienced coaches, and different events planned for the national team.
The new national coaches give us motivation to take our dreams and goals more seriously and play as a one team for one goal. I am looking so much forward to SAFF games.
The one in only dream and wish of this year is to win the championship in SAFF and bring pride to motherland!
Rina Azizi is 16 years old, was born in The Netherlands, where she currently lives.
My parents left Afghanistan due to war and fled to Moscow, Russia in the late 80’s. They lived there for 10 years before they left for The Netherlands.
I play for DSV Doornspijk and coach for a local youth club in which my little brother is playing in. Besides football practice and playtime, I work out in the gym twice a week with my personal fitness coach.
Since my childhood, I wanted to play football. I played football in the streets with other children and told my parents I wanted to play for a club. My parents asked my “why football, there are so many other sports?” They even tried to get me into tennis.
I never gave up and eventually they signed me up with a local club.
My parents didn’t show much interest in me playing football.
One day my coach told them that I played very well and that they should come and watch me play. When they saw me playing, they started to follow my football career with pride.
I took part, for the second time in the Multi-Cultural tournament in Amsterdam. Before the tournament, the girls told me that there was a delegation of the Afghan National Women’s Football Team coming to this tournament to scout players.
I wasn’t nervous with their presence, as always I did my best and played as I always have been playing. At the end of the tournament, Coach Kelly and assistant coach Haley talked to us. That was really inspiring for me and I wasn’t even thinking about making it to the selection.
When they announced the 32 selected names, I was still in bed. I could hear my mom running up the stairs. She opened my bedroom door and said” you’re on the list, your name is on the list!”. I still had a sleepy head and had no idea what she was talking about. Again she said “Rina, your name is on the list, you are selected, you are one of the 32. Your uncle just called, he saw the list”. Then I realized what she was talking about and I was so happy, I was euphoric.
I’m really looking forward meeting all the girls, play and train together to achieve some good results with the team.
Part of my family still lives in Kabul. Because I’m born and raised in The Netherlands, it was hard to imagine how people live there. People told me stories about the life there but I had to see it for myself.
Three years ago, I visited Kabul and immediately I realized how fortunate I am to have all the freedom I have in The Netherlands. At home I can walk the streets in shorts and t-shirt and no one will make a point out of this. Life in Kabul is not so easy and walking the streets in shorts is a NO GO! I had an unsafe feeling walking the streets there, I was afraid.
My dream is to become a professional football player, to inspire young girls to play and to make my parents proud.
This morning, my mother told me to come downstairs. When I got into the living room, I saw a big picture on canvas hanging on the wall. It’s a picture of me in my football uniform, a surprise from my parents. Thanks dad and mom, thanks for supporting me in this.
In an effort to share more about our team and our journey to this point, we have compiled a group of stories from our players and staff that outline the road they've taken to achieve this dream. The first of our stories is from Maria Babrakzai, a player currently living in Norway. This is her story. Her words. And we want to share it with the world!! Please stay tuned for even more stories about hope and football and why we're embarking on this journey together!
"My name is Maria Babrakzai and I'm 20 years old and living in Oslo, Norway.
I left my country with my family due to the war in Afghanistan, when I was 9 years old. It was difficult and dangerous to live in Afghanistan at that time. My father is from Pashtun Tribes.
Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan are the most uptight tribes in Afghanistan. The women nearly have no rights. Women are used to work and stay at home and the women has no right to be a part of any decisions, even the decision about their self.
I was 9 years old when we left Afghanistan to Pakistan. We went to Pakistan and lived as a refugee there in Refugee camp until we left for Norway. I missed my childhood in escaping from war and living in refugee camps.
In Norway we were living in one of the asylum centers, and while we were waiting for authorities to give us right to stay in Norway, I started playing football with other kids.
I loved football from then on, because football makes me happy and when I play football I feel I get so much energy and happiness. Football has magic, a magic of happiness.
When we got permission to stay in Norway, I told to my parents that I want to play football, both my parents was surprised when I said football they were expecting me to tell them I want to play basketball or volleyball.
Because both games are known as women’s game, but football was known as men’s game. Since my parents are well educated, open-minded, and supportive, especially my mother, she said yes, you should definitely go for it. She said to me “ you're strong girl and a strong fighter. You can do it, its your thing, go for it”.
They registered me in one of the clubs and I started playing professionally.
Due to studies I took a break for 3 years. But when I read in social media about Afghanistan Women's National Team I became very happy I was telling to myself I need to find way to come to that team, my country's team.
It was my dream from childhood to get chance to do something beautiful for my country and I finally read about it and I said, “ I can do it what ever it takes”.
I took contact with players and got chance to travel to Denmark and play for one of the Afghan clubs there. When I meet other Afghan girls and made friendship with them we played together.
That was one of my best moment and memory of my life. Playing football after 3 years, I got that magic again inside me the magic of happiness and excitement and freedom.
When I met those girls I got the news that after 3 months it will be an event in Amsterdam where the Afghanistan Women’s National coaches will come to that event and evaluate the Afghan players for the national team of Afghanistan.
I was very happy and felt that there is a chance to do something for my country, when I returned home after playing football in Denmark.
I went to one of the clubs by the name of Team Nes in Oslo Norway and I started again football. I went to gym I played every day even twice a day went to gym and run out to get back into shape I had 3 months. I got chance to go to Amsterdam and played football for try out of the national team. Yes I made it.
I had so much stress, so much fear, I was praying and playing hard to be selected in first player pool roaster.
I told myself that I will try my best if I cant make it this year next year 100% I can make it.
At the end of the Amsterdam event, what made me even stronger and serious about my career, it was the speech from the Coach of the National Team, Kelly, she told us “ when you have to decide between going out with your friends and training ask yourself which one is important for you first, is it football / training or going out with friends."
That speech made life easier for me every time when I have to choose between one of the options I choose the first one, which brings me, closer to my goals and dreams.
When I saw and read my name in first roster of the national team I was surprised I was crying of happiness. I wanted to fly and tell everybody that I got the chance to do something to my country and be involved in a big movement.
My parents saw my name in the list and they were very happy and supportive. My mom said "I knew that you can make it to the national team. And I know you will go further."
I am training hard, doing my best to make it to top 23 to play for my beautiful national team. I want to bring pride for my country.
The motivation in my life is when you want to achieve something you have to fight and work hard for it.
If a man can bring pride for our country why not women, we are strong women we can do it."
Building a National Team
In March, a message was posted on the Afghanistan Women’s National Team Facebook Page, inviting all young women with Afghanistan roots who were interested in trying out for the national team to:
The players needed to pay their own way to attend these events in order to be evaluated by the coaching staff, Kelly Lindsey and Haley Carter, to be chosen for the National Team Pool.
We did an extensive search, and evaluated all the players focused on 3 key variables:
We believe that in building a championship team, you must start with champion people. People who pursue their personal best, overcome obstacles, never quit, and carry themselves professionally on and off the field.
Many of these young women have never been on a national team before, thus understanding the process to developing a successful program, versus just a few good players is very important to us as a staff. Anyone can find talented players, our journey to success on the field starts with success off the field. We want champion people eager to work hard behind the scenes to develop their skills, confidence, and character in order to allow their talents to shine on the field.
Building a national team is a challenge, and it all starts before you ever don that national team jersey. In order to officially seal their spot on the pool roster, the girls had to complete a number of tasks behind the scenes including fitness testing on their own. Managed by John, Joelle, and Hub our team is learning daily how to hold themselves accountable when no one else is watching!
After successful completion of fitness testing by all players, we feel we have found a group of dedicated young women, eager to elevate their games through this honor to wear their nation’s badge and pursue their dreams together.
We are happy to announce our first pool for the 2016 season, and are excited about building the future of the program for these women and future generations.
The pool currently consists of the following players: