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Nadia Nadim’s escape from Taliban rule in Afghanistan to soccer continually inspires

Nadia Nadim’s escape from Taliban rule in Afghanistan to soccer continually inspires
Racing Louisville star Nadia Nadim’s journey is unlike any other, going from a refugee escaping Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to now being an international soccer star and medical doctor. (Photo: Connor Cunningham)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BVM) — When Kahbul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell back into Taliban power on Aug. 16 of last year, it was a moment of deja vu for Afghanistan native and current Racing Louisville FC player Nadia Nadim. Nadim, who was born in the country, has had her life forever impacted by the Taliban and their power and she is scared that history may be repeating itself.

“The worst part is the innocent ones always suffer the most, the ones who don’t know what is happening, the women and the children,” Nadim said during a Racing Louisville FC press availability. “It’s sad. It makes me upset. Seeing that everywhere is unfair and you feel powerless. That’s what I feel.”

Growing up, Nadim’s childhood was unlike many other athletes, but sadly not unlike many people in countries outside of the United States. Nadim was born and raised in Herat, Afghanistan, a country that has been through numerous wars and filled with terrorist and hate organizations for decades. Nadim’s life changed forever when her father was murdered by the Taliban when she was only 11 and the impending violence forced her, her mother and four sisters to leave the country to neighboring Pakistan. 

“I can relate to [the situation],” Nadim said.

The family, using forged passports, eventually found its way to Denmark where, like many other families displaced from war-torn countries, they made a home in a refugee camp. Though it was a difficult life, one that the older Nadim can now reflect on with a different worldview, the youngster actually enjoyed the time in the camp thanks in large part to her discovery of futbol.

Though it only started as an informal infatuation, Nadim would eventually fall in love with the sport by watching a local club team outside of the camp and learning the nuances of the game from afar. Eventually, Nadim would make it out of the refugee camp and into the international sport of women’s soccer where she has become recognized as one of the top goal-scorers in the game today, making her debut for the Danish national team in Algarve Cup in 2009 and representing the country over 80 times and scoring over 30 goals in addition to her participation on numerous other clubs.

On the pitch, Nadim has played for the Danish national team, fellow NWSL club Portland Thorns FC (2016-2017), England’s Manchester City (2018) and most recently Paris Saint-Germain, where she led the team to its first Division 1 Féminine title in 2021, prior to joining Racing Louisville in July of last year. With Racing, Nadim played in eight games where she scored three goals and tallied one assist, though a torn ACL on Sept. 10 against the Orlando Pride would end her season prematurely.

While she is happy with her recognition as an elite player, Nadim also strives to build a legacy that will reach far beyond her career on the soccer pitch. Nadim is known as one of the biggest humanitarians in the world of soccer and recently helped launch an initiative with her former team PSG and KLABU, a charity that helps build sports clubs in refugee camps around the world. The first stage of the collaboration is to launch a new sports club in the single largest refugee camp in the world at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, home to nearly 1 million Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, refugees.

Now an international soccer star, Nadim is known for her humanitarian efforts off the pitch. (Photo: Connor Cunningham)

According to the KLABU website, the initial goal for the collaboration is to reach 10,000 Rohingya and host community children, and their family members to find relief from their hardships and pleasure in the practice of sport and a club center will be created to work as a sport library by providing access to sport kits and equipment to the local community.

In addition to her future aid, Nadim has been actively involved with the situation of her home country of Afghanistan. During the winter offseason, Nadim made numerous visits to Afghan evacuee camps across the world to bring positivity to children impacted by the change of power in the country.

“I was in Qatar because I did some of my rehab there and visited the Afghan evacuee center there,” Nadim said. “I think war is dumb. I don’t understand it.”

Additionally, with the help of Racing Louisville FC and other organizations, Nadim helped raise money for a fundraiser called The Women’s Cup, founded on the notion that working towards gender equality is the only way forward, which will send the donations to Afghan women through numerous charitable organizations. As of this writing, the GoFundMe raised over $88,000 for the charities.

For Nadim, this is just a part of her humanitarian efforts. In January, Nadim graduated from Aarhus University with a doctorate of medicine degree specializing in reconstructive surgery. The degree allows her to now be known as Dr. Nadim and continue her humanitarian ways.

“Six weeks ago I graduated as a doctor which is amazing, a great feeling,” Nadim said. “It was very, very tough. I was in school and internships and everything…I’ve been busy but life is short you’ve got to start up and do your thing!” 

While her home country is once again under Taliban control, forcing women to have significantly less freedoms in education, the workforce and athletics among others, Nadim will continue to try and inspire those stuck under that rule by being a success. She has proven what a woman can do if they are given the opportunity and now returning to Racing Louisville for the start of their season on March 18, she hopes to continue to prove just how strong a woman from Afghanistan can be.