Nadia Nadim on women’s football in Afghanistan one year on from Taliban takeover
Women’s football has taken root in Afghanistan. But not as many girls as originally thought. For one year, the United Nations helped the government build a network of coaches and equipment.
On a sunny afternoon in Kabul, Nadia Nadim sits on a folding chair at the back of a packed room at the Alian Football Stadium. An audience of around 150 people, mostly women, has gathered to meet her. Among them are former players and other influential women with a common cause: to end gender discrimination in Afghan football. “This is the biggest crowd for these sessions,” says Nadim, the most famous women’s football player in the country. “In the last days we had 100 people. Last month, we had 500.” The room is standing-room only. Nadim explains the situation between women and football after the Taliban’s ousting of the president last summer. “We have a league and it’s a very small league. We have a good league, but the national team is not very good. The coach is not good enough.” Not good enough to win a place in the first round of the Asian Cup, a tournament that starts in April. “If you are not good at home, then you cannot prepare well. The coach has to make mistakes.” Nadim is one of only three women in her team. “It’s a very small team, but we play good football,” she laughs. The other two women on the team are Nadim’s friends who play for the province. “They are very good. Sometimes one person will play, but the others do not do anything. So they need to play a lot of football. They are good players.” The team has never reached the final of a league. “Until now we have never made it to the final because of the coach. He is not good at football. He is not good at coaching. He cannot coach football well.” The first women’s football tournament was organised by the UN in 2013. Nadim’s club is one of the four invited, alongside the national team, Alian, and two other clubs. They will join two others for a two-day tournament. The winning side gets to play in the Asian Cup. Nadim was just 20 when she was given a chance to play in the tournament by the government, which wanted to show that the sport could be a sport for all.