It is often said that true talents are borne out of adversity. For some, it might be a difficult childhood leading them to look towards sports as a refuge. For others, it might be driven by self-doubt or the death of a loved one to whose memory they dedicate everything. For Nadia Nadim, an Afghan-Danish football player, it was a case of both, a difficult childhood and the death of a loved one.
WHO IS NADIA NADIM?
Nadia Nadim is an Afghan-Danish football player who currently plays for Racing Louisville FC, a club that plays in NWSL, the National Women’s Soccer League in the US. She is considered to be the greatest Afghan-born player of all time and has represented Denmark 85 times, scoring 33 goals.
She won the French League title in 2020-21, etching her name in the list of legends of the game as far as Afghan football is concerned. Her list of accomplishments in the game is long and comprehensive, with an NWSL title, an UEFA Euro silver medal, a French league title being the headliners.
However, Nadia Nadim is the rare case of a footballer where their on-field accomplishments are just the cherry on top of the cake. While many footballers are defined by their team and individual accolades, Nadia Nadim could have not kicked a ball in her life and still gone down as an inspirational human being.
Nadia Nadim wasn’t supposed to be this successful. Born on Jan 2nd, 1988 in Afghanistan, life started throwing one adversity after another at her.
Afghanistan has been a war-torn country for a long time but the 1980s were the peak of the Cold War era. Taliban was running roughshod over the country.
For a child to grow in such conditions was tough. However, for Nadia, it was worse. At a very young age, she got the news that the Taliban had cruelly shot down her father. With no male figures in the family, living in a regime increasingly antagonistic towards women was a death wish.
— Nadia Nadim (@nadia_nadim) April 14, 2021
Therefore, at such a young age, she, along with her mother and four sisters, went looking for an escape. A small girl child had her father and her birthplace taken away from her at the start of her life.
To add to the troubles, their escape attempt went haywire. Initially looking to move to London with some of their relatives, they reached Italy with the help of forged passports. From there on, hoping to find some familiar faces in London, their world was once again turned upside down. Somehow, the transportation that was supposed to drop them off in London had gone to Denmark.
So there she was. A young child with her mother and four sisters, in a foreign country, with no acquaintances, heading for a refuge camp. Prospects in life can look bleak at such a moment for an average person. Nadia Nadim was no average person.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
Football is one of the most “Democratic” games out there. A single round object is all one needs to start playing “The Beautiful Game”. Nadia Nadim was based in a refuge camp, but where she truly found “Refuge” was in the game of football.
In an interview with CNN, Nadia recalls that the refugee camp was the first place where she was introduced to the game. Starting out informally, she got drawn to the magic of the game. Things were starting to fall into place if only due to her persistence, drive and determination.
She got to know about a football club not far from the refugee camp. Here, she learned the nitty-gritty of football. The formations, style of plays, technical elements and other basics of the game were ingrained into her. She realised that it was the game for her.
A STAR IS BORN
When you’ve already faced some of the worst moments that life has to offer, then the pressure of a soccer game doesn’t faze you.
The star of Nadia Nadim began to shine quickly. She got noticed by the grassroots clubs in Denmark and soon started her professional career with B52 in Aalborg. She took every level that came her way into her stride as she rose to the top of the Danish football landscape. Her rise was punctuated by her brace on her Champions League debut for Fortuna Hjørring. She was not going to look back.
Her exploits took her from Denmark to the USA, where she starred for Sky Blue FC and Portland Thorns. She finished her stint in the USA by winning the NWSL championship with Portland Thorns. There was no stopping the phenom for Afghanistan.
A move to Manchester City followed. Now she was truly in the company of elites. As had been the theme of her career, and life, she was unfazed by the step up. She scored a goal six minutes into her debut and scored the winner in the next game. After her English adventure, Nadim shot for the stars and signed for Paris Saint Germain Feminine, one of the strongest teams in women’s football.
Captain’s armband, a French League title, and 13 goals and 13 assists in 16 games followed. There would be no stopping her. She knew her humble beginnings and was not going to waste any chance to impress. After conquering the French League, she moved back to play for Racing Louisville, where she is currently signed. Still, as mentioned earlier, her story is inspiring beyond her on-field achievements.
A TRUE INSPIRATION
Coming from such a difficult background has made Nadia Nadim into a compassionate human being first and a world-class footballer second.
She speaks 11 languages fluently and has attended medical school at Aarhus University, recently becoming a doctor.
"I came to a refugee camp where there was access to sports … and I felt like I could be a child again."@PSG_Feminines forward @nadia_nadim tells @AmandaDCNN about the club's new partnership with @KLABUofficial, which aims to reach thousands of refugee children through sport. pic.twitter.com/hPYH5qZI9T
— CNN Sports (@cnnsport) May 27, 2021
She has forged a partnership with KLABU, a charity that helps build sports clubs in refugee camps. The charity, with the help of Nadim, initially aims to reach 10,000 refugee children. Nadia wants to ensure that the opportunity that she got by chance becomes a right of every refugee child.
In addition, she has been named on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women in International Sports. She has had a biography released, called “Min Historie”, translating to “My Story”, which was also nominated for the Sports Book of the Year.
Min bog om Nadia Nadims utrolige rejse fra faderløs flygtningebarn i en dansk provinsby til international fodboldstjerne i Paris udkommer på fransk i dag, næsten præcis 3 år efter, den udkom i 2018 på dansk. Lidt flere kapitler, et andet udseende. Men samme Nadim. pic.twitter.com/BC3vnJjSNT
— Miriam Zesler (@MiriamZesler) June 2, 2021
She was the first Danish female football player to have a representation contract with Nike. Despite all her fame, she has repeatedly rejected contract offers that would have made her the highest-paid female footballer in the world.
Nadia asserts that she doesn’t play the sport for money and can earn enough from her future career as a doctor. With how much she has given back to the world, in hope and her never-say-die attitude, it is just as well because her contribution to the world of football and beyond cannot be measured by any number on a contract.