Nadia Nadim’s story has all the ingredients for a successful Hollywood movie script. It is as much about life in Afghanistan under Taliban, especially for women, as about freedom and the eventual triumph of the human spirit.
Nadia may be a successful international woman footballer today — she represents the national women’s football team of Denmark, her adopted home — but her early life was as tragic as it could possibly be in Taliban-ravaged Afghanistan.
Like many Afghans, Nadia’s father was a big fan of football, and gave his little girls a ball to play with. But Nadia and her sisters could only play a little in their garden, as girls and women were not allowed to be seen in public in Taliban dominated Afghanistan.
Tragedy struck Nadia’s family when she was around 10 years old. Her father was called to a meeting in an isolated desert and he never returned home. Six months after he disappeared, her mother came to know that he had been executed.
In an interview with Fifa.com once, Nadia spoke about the tragedy that befell her family, the courage with which her mother stood behind the family and eventually plotted their escape from the country. She said,
“The Taliban took him. He disappeared. We knew he wasn’t coming back. That he was murdered. We were six females alone. We had no future. No school, no work. We couldn’t even walk down the street without a man with us. Everything was burning.”
One night, the family of six women fled Afghanistan. They reached Italy via Pakistan on fake passports. From there, they eventually planned to land in London where Nadia’s mother Hamilda had relatives. But the bus they were travelling in dumped them in rural Denmark.
In Denmark, the family ended up in a refugee centre. Here, Nadia could play football with her sisters freely without any restrictions. They would attend school till evening and spent the rest of the time playing football. After a while, the family was allowed to move into an apartment. Nadia also started to train at a professional football club.
Over time, the entire family acquired Denmark’s citizenship and everything fell into place. Nadia’s football career also took off and she earned herself a spot in the national team.
According to a report by The Independent, Nadia represents Portland Thorns now, the largest club in the US which attracts up to 15,000 spectators per game. Nadia, 29, is all set to help her team shine in the upcoming leagues.
Parallelly, Nadia is pursuing a medical degree at Aarhus University in Denmark and wants to become a reconstructive surgeon.
Nadia’s story is one in a billion and her inspiring journey is sure to inspire millions.