Where EAST meets the Northwest
TRAGIC LOSS. Danish forward Nadia Nadim was in the midst of a World Cup match
as a television commentator when she was suddenly rocked by tragic news. Her
mother, who had helped the family flee the Taliban in Afghanistan when Nadim was
just a girl, had been killed in a traffic accident in Denmark. In this photo,
Nadim is seen playing for the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on June 22,
2016, when she was a member of the club. (AR Photo/Jan Landis, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V32, #12 (December 5, 2022), page 14.
Nadim’s journey at World Cup shaken by loss of her mother
By Anne M. Peterson
The Associated Press
DOHA, Qatar — Danish forward Nadia Nadim was in the midst of a World Cup
match as a television commentator when she was suddenly rocked by tragic news.
Her mother, who had helped the family flee the Taliban in Afghanistan when Nadim
was just a girl, had been killed in a traffic accident in Denmark.
Nadim left her job in the middle of the broadcast to rush home, but was back
in Qatar a week later working with the London-basted ITV network.
"I think it wouldn’t help me, my mom wouldn’t come back, if I just laid and
cried my eyes out," Nadim said. "And secondly, I think I need to be strong for
her. She was a very strong woman. I think one thing is talking about being
strong, another thing is demonstrating it. That’s also my way to honor her."
The 34-year-old Nadim has overcome an arduous past to excel both on and off
the field. She’s had a lengthy career with the Danish national team and several
pro clubs, and now she’s got a flourishing TV career. Oh, and she’s also a
doctor after earning her medical degree earlier this year.
But soccer is the constant in her life.
Nadim grew up in Kabul. One day when she was about 10, her father — an Afghan
army general — was summoned to meet with the Taliban leaders. He never returned.
Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to have jobs or even leave the home
without a male relative. That made life untenable for her mother, who faced
raising five girls on her own.
"We tried to survive for a couple of years, it didn’t really work out. And
then at the end, my mom made the decision for us to have a better future and
find rescue somewhere else, find a life somewhere else. We were transported and
smuggled from one country to the other and somehow ended up in Denmark," Nadim
said. "It’s all due to my mom and her intelligence, and her will to fight and to
After six months in a Copenhagen refugee camp, the family was granted asylum.
Nadim remembered watching Danish girls practice through a fence, describing
it as "one of those moments when you get hit by lightning and then everything
kind of makes sense."
"They just looked so happy and free. And at that moment, I wanted to be on
that field and feel what they were feeling. I have this thing in me, I guess a
fire or obsession. I get obsessed with things that I really need to achieve, or
the goals I set myself," she said. "Then a couple of months later I got the
courage to go ask the coach to let me in."
Asked if she knew whether she was any good, Nadim joked: "I was born good."
Nadim went on to play for the national team for her adopted country, scoring
38 goals in 103 appearances. She was left off the team’s latest roster, however,
because of an ACL injury in September.
Nadim won a French league title in 2021 with Paris Saint-Germain, one of the
many stops she’s made during a pro career. She currently plays in the United
States with Racing Louisville of the National Women’s Soccer League. While
unlikely to play at the start of Racing’s season next year because of her
injury, she hopes to return soon.
She’s also passionate about humanitarian causes, and in 2019 visited the
Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya with the Danish Refugee Council. The aim was to
promote a women’s team, the Kakuma Stars.
In Qatar, she’s a representative — along with England great Steven Gerrard
and K-pop stars BTS — for Goal of the Century, a sustainability campaign
launched by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) sponsor
Hyundai. Nadim said the trip to Kakuma made her aware of the plight of
She passionate about humanitarian causes because of her mother.
"I know this might sound a bit grandiose," she said, "but I just feel like
everything that I can do to have an impact on the world and on someone’s life,
I’ll do it."
See also our past story about Nadia Nadim published during her time playing
for the Portland Thorns, "Nadim brings passionate personality to Portland."
* * *
FANTASTIC FOOTBALLER. Born in Kerat, Afghanistan, then raised in Kabul until
she was age 12 and later in Denmark, Nadia Nadim is now contributing her passion
and skill to the Portland Thorns in the Rose City. The Thorns started the 2016
campaign with a 12-game unbeaten streak — seven wins, no losses, and five ties —
which is the second-longest streak without a loss in the history of the National
Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Last month, the Thorns won the NWSL Shield, which
is awarded to the club with the best regular-season record. (AR Photos/Jan
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #19 (October 3, 2016), pages 1 & 7.
Nadim brings passionate personality to Portland
By Jody Lim
The Asian Reporter
The Portland Thorns concluded a historic 2016 season in the National Women’s
Soccer League (NWSL) in early October. The Thorns won the NWSL Shield, which is
awarded to the club with the best regular-season record; averaged nearly 17,000
fans per game at home matches, which is the highest attendance of any women’s
professional soccer team in the world; finished with the best regular-season
home record (8-1-1) in the league; strung together a 12-game unbeaten streak,
which is the second-longest streak without a loss in the history of the NWSL;
and hosted a home playoff match for the first time in club history.
Unfortunately, a hard-fought semifinal playoff loss to the Western New York
Flash at Providence Park brought the season to an end. With the Flash and Thorns
tied with two goals apiece after 90 minutes, the match headed into extra time.
Western New York managed to find the net two more times while the Thorns were
only able to put away one more goal. A crowd of 20,086 soccer-crazy fans — a new
NWSL attendance record for a playoff game — cheered as the teams competed in a
physical game that was also nationally televised.
One of the contributors to Portland’s success this year is Afghanistan-born
Nadia Nadim, who joined the Thorns in January in a trade with Sky Blue FC, the
club she played for during the 2014 and 2015 NWSL seasons. Nadim’s road to
Portland has been a long one.
Fans of the Thorns feel as well as see Nadim’s love of the game of
soccer at every match. In addition to describing Nadim as a "super-passionate
player," teammate Meleana "Mana" Shim said she’s a fierce competitor, someone
who is "constantly watching and studying the game," pushing herself and those
around her to become better. Nadia has a great attitude as well as a vibrant and
intense personality, Shim said, and also mentioned that she very much enjoys
battling against Nadim during the team’s training sessions.
Nadim, 28, was born in Herat, Afghanistan on January 2, 1988. She was raised
in Kabul, Afghanistan until she was 12 years old. She and her family had a
typical life in Kabul until the war started. Her mother, Hamida, was a school
principal, and her father, Rabani, was a general in the Afghan military. Nadim
and her sisters — Giti, Diana, Muskan, and Mujda — attended school, spent time
together, and went about daily life.
But things changed in 2000, when Nadim’s father disappeared. Much later, they
were told he had been executed by members of the Taliban.
About a month after Rabani’s disappearance, Hamida fled to Pakistan with her
daughters. From Pakistan, the family was smuggled away in a truck. Their
original destination was London, where extended family lived, but they ended up
in Denmark, in Randers, a small city in the north.
After spending about a day in Randers, Nadia and her family ended up at
Sandholm, an accommodation center for asylum seekers in Copenhagen. There, her
new life began amid days filled with language lessons and pickup soccer games.
Later, her family finally found a home of their own. In the summer of 2008.
Nadia acquired her Danish citizenship.
Eventually, Nadia committed to a local soccer club, where she began learning
the game beyond the many hours she’d spent running around playing pickup ball.
By 2005, she was playing professionally — first with B52 Aalborg then seven
seasons with IK Skovbakken (2006-2012). She joined Fortuna Hjørring in 2012 and
helped the club win a league title in 2014.
In the latter part of the 2014 NWSL season, Fortuna Hjørring loaned Nadim to
Sky Blue FC. Immediately upon arriving in New Jersey, Nadim scored seven goals
in six games. She stayed on the east coast during the 2015 season as well,
tallying six goals and an assist in 18 matches for Sky Blue. Nadim credits
Fortuna Hjørring teammate Tiffany Weimer with providing encouragement to her in
2012 to look for an opportunity in the NWSL to challenge herself. (Weimer played
the 2013 season with the Thorns.) In January of this year, Portland announced
the signing of Nadim.
Representing her new country since 2009, Nadim has earned 58 caps
(international appearances) with the Denmark Women’s National Team. In
September, she was called up to play two matches as part of the qualifying group
stage of the UEFA Women’s EURO competition. Denmark won both matches, defeating
Moldova 5-0 and Sweden 2-0; Nadim contributed to the wins, scoring three goals.
Beyond soccer, Nadia is pursuing a medical degree with a specialization in
plastic surgery at Aarhus University in Denmark and has about 18 more months
until she completes the program. Her days in Portland have been filled with her
studies as well as soccer practices and matches. The budding doctor is fluent in
Danish, German, Dari, Urdu, and English, and she also speaks some French.
Nadim’s sisters, along with their mother, who is now retired, still live in
Denmark. Giti, 29, who as a youth also played soccer for the Denmark Women’s
National Team, is currently studying medicine and is expected to finish in
January. Diana, 25, a seven-time Danish boxing champion, is scheduled to fight
her next bout in England in mid-December. Muskan, 22, is enrolled in nursing
school and should earn her degree in about a year. Mujda, 20, plans to start
university studies in about a year, after doing some travelling.
With the 2016 season now in the books, Thorns FC players and fans will have
to wait until spring to see more soccer records set. The adaptable Nadim will
soon be able to focus a bit more attention on her studies. As Shim mentioned
about her determined and outgoing teammate and friend when asked about soccer
and life, she said Nadia approaches both the same way: "When she does something,
she’s fully committed to it."
As witnessed by Nadim’s life so far, her hard work, persistence, and passion
will shine through to the people around her. She is getting closer to earning
her medical degree and the Thorns next season will be motivated and ready to go.
The NWSL championship match between the Washington Spirit and the Western New
York Flash, which will be televised live on Fox Sports 1, is scheduled for
Sunday, October 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. To learn more about
the Thorns and the NWSL, visit <www.portlandthorns.com>
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