Nadia Nadim on women’s football in Afghanistan one year on from Taliban takeover
This story was updated at 9.30pm on Tuesday 20 June after Nadim gave an even longer interview to the Guardian. Her words have been edited for length.
As the Taliban came to power in Kabul in 1996, Nadia Nadim was a young doctor with a university degree.
The Afghan football team had a new coach in a new country, and that same coach had a new way of training.
The new coach was a former French international footballer. He called the team forward with a forward pass, and they played without fear.
At the time, Afghanistan was the poorest country in the world and was facing an invasion by 10,000 US troops, and a famine in which the government claimed more than 1m children had died.
Football in Afghanistan was on the verge of a revolution
They were playing their first game in 1996 and Nadim had been forced to resign from medicine, a step that she later described as the “first political step in my life”.
She then started working at the sports medicine clinic as a volunteer, where she developed a passion for the sport and spent most of her spare time talking to other ex-pats living in Kabul about her experiences playing football.
It led to her producing a memoir in English translated into several different languages, The Life of a Footballer in Kabul: My First Year in Kabul. She has also been a correspondent for the Guardian.
The book was not available in Afghanistan when she was writing it, and so she was forced to write in the first person.
In my mind, Nadim says, the only reason I wrote this book is because there was no one else to tell.
So many people couldn’t or wouldn’t speak publicly about what they’d done as a woman doctor in the Taliban era.
Afghanistan was at its most patriarchal and oppressive under the Taliban
There was little interest in football in the first decade of that decade when it was under the Taliban. There was no interest in football at all.
No men were going outside the country, and no women were going out wearing their full headscarves, so women could not go and watch their men play football.
When women started going outside the country, it was a chance for them to be different.