At the end of last month, Nadia Nadim signed for the FA Women’s Super League team Manchester City. She’ll have just turned 30 when she starts officially playing for them, in January 2018.
It’s a world away from where she started playing football, in secret, in her family garden in her native Afghanistan. Growing up as the Taliban seized control of her country, she found herself under their strict regime which banned education and sports for women.
When her father was brutally murdered by the Taliban, Nadim’s family fled, fearing for their lives. At just 12 years old, she embarked on a journey in search of safety and ended up in Denmark, where Nadim and her mother and sisters were granted asylum and given a new lease of life.
There, life was totally different. Girls were able to play sport and gain a full education. Despite finding the transition to a new world challenging, Nadim’s lust for life ensured she not only settled in, but shone as a bright student and rising football star.
“I’m happy that I got a second chance,” she says. “Me and my family got the best out of it.”
In the summer, Nadim played for Denmark in the final of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017, against the Netherlands (the Netherlands won 4-2). It was the biggest match of her life and a fitting way to give back to the country that had given her so many opportunities. “I’ve had some amazing people in my life that have helped me out,” she says. “I’m paying it back!”
Her talent caught the eye of international football teams and she was soon playing in the US for Sky Blue FC and then Portland Thorns. But it is her move to the world-renowned Man City that is her crowning glory.
Off the field, Nadim’s achievements are also remarkable. She is fluent in nine languages – Danish, English, German, Persian, Dari, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and French – and just about to complete a medical degree in reconstructive surgery. Later in life, she hopes to help people rebuild themselves following injury, which is indicative of Nadim’s personal outlook and strength: if something negative happens to you, renew and get back out there.
In a recent interview with Man City, she said: “I hope that at the end of my career, I have shown some people that anything is possible. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve been through. It just takes hard work and a belief in yourself and dreams do come true.”