Nadia Nadim: ‘You have to try and search for the light; you can have an amazing life’
Recent events in Afghanistan, which saw thousands of people flee their homeland, is a story all too familiar to Nadia Nadim. She was forced to leave the country in 2000, aged 12, after her father was murdered. And following a difficult journey, Nadim and her family settled in Denmark as refugees.
While living in a refugee centre in the Danish city of Aarhus, Nadim started playing football. Soon her talent was spotted and she made her way to the top of the women’s game. Nine years later, she made her debut for Denmark – becoming the first naturalised player to represent the country.
The 33-year-old has enjoyed a stellar club career, including spells at Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. She currently plies her trade in the US with National Women’s Soccer League side Racing Louisville FC and is considered by many to be one of the best players in the world and among the most influential women footballers.
Nadim’s accomplishments go way beyond the football pitch. She is also a motivational speaker, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and is in the process of completing her medical doctorate to become a reconstructive surgeon.
As a guest of the State of Qatar during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™, Nadim shared her remarkable story with fellow Afghans who were recently evacuated from the country to Doha. Her visit was arranged by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s flagship legacy programme, Generation Amazing, which has been providing daily activities like football coaching, language courses and more to hundreds of Afghan refugees since August, in collaboration with Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nadim was encouraged by the positive spirit she saw among the youngsters she met, despite the challenges they are facing. “It was touching to meet all these amazing young kids. There is so much hope that you can see in their eyes and so much joy as well,” she said. “Obviously, it’s never easy to leave your home, especially under the circumstances that led to them having to leave, but watching this and seeing everything, it makes you believe in humanity again, so I’m very happy that I got to see this.”
There is also a personal connection for Nadim, as her aunt was one of the people evacuated to Qatar. She spent three days in the compound before being flown to her home in Turkey.
“My aunt was supposed to leave on the last flight out of Kabul but as everyone knows, it was cancelled,” said Nadim. “She ended up staying for a night in hiding before boarding a flight to Doha and staying here. She had been in Kabul for work and didn’t expect the situation to escalate so quickly. We didn’t hear from her for ages in our group chat so we were very worried. Luckily, she ended up on the flight to Qatar and was then able to travel home after staying here – so I feel very attached to this place and also very thankful to Qatar.”
Nadim also provided an important message to her fellow Afghans in the camp: “I told them it’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible. If you want to make it happen, it’s up to you. You should never lose hope and you are capable of way more than you think. You have to try and search for the light, even though it looks really dark. You can have an amazing life.”
Nadim is a strong believer in football’s power to positively change and improve lives, having forged her own impressive career in the professional game. “I feel sports, football in particular, has an amazing power. The reason I think it’s a powerful tool is because it can unite easily,” she said. “On the field, it doesn’t really matter who you are – your background, your religion, your opinions. The only thing that matters is how you work together to reach your goals. For you to be able to do that, you have to respect, communicate and understand each other.”
Nadim’s time in Qatar also included a visit to Lusail Stadium, which will host next year’s FIFA World Cup™ final. Nadim feels the tournament will be a special moment for people across the Middle East and Arab world.
“It’s going to have a huge impact on the fans. They are going to feel a part of it because the tournament is taking place in their home. For the players, it’s going to be an opportunity to experience something new and play in a new region. It is also an opportunity to feel and learn a different football culture. Football changes and improves things; it educates and inspires the next generation. There will be a lot of amazing things that this World Cup is going to bring.”#GenerationAmazing #FIFArabCup #Qatar2022