The first World Cup of its kind in Afghanistan

Nadia Nadim on women’s football in Afghanistan one year on from Taliban takeover

Safa Ali

The women’s national team will be in the spotlight this summer over the first World Cup of its kind in Afghanistan. After being forced to cancel the first game in 2006 after the Taliban took over the country, Nadia Nadim became the coach of the women’s team. After four years of being forced to play under the Taliban flag, the women are now allowed to return to their stadium after the country is liberated. The women will play their first game the following month, against the United States in a friendly tournament. They will meet again in August in a major international competition in their own country. Nadia reflects on the story that is making headlines all over the world, and she describes her first year on the job.

The football team will be playing its first game in the stadium of your new government, which does not support or know anything about football. How did you react when you heard that your country was about to free itself of the Taliban regime?

The first night I was told that their government had announced that there will be a victory celebration on August 18, there was a big celebration. The next morning I was told that their government had announced that there will be celebration on August 19. On the Friday night, our stadium was full of people, they were chanting our names and they threw bouquets at me. I just smiled and said: ‘That’s for the celebration in the capital about to happen on August 28.’

They wanted to show me that the people are behind you. It had been four years, four years of not even a single victory. They were celebrating but I was very happy. I think that was the first time I saw my nation really happy and proud. They went back to their government and asked them to give them two days to take care of us. That was the first time I was really happy. They then told us the reason why they had decided to grant us two days to celebrate. This was it! We were ready to play, we were ready to celebrate. And they were ready to take us back to our country. On the second day we received a phone call from the president that said: ‘We are

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