Nadia Nadim

For National Refugee Week and Newcastle Chaplaincy's SOLIDARITEAM Campaign, Elana Shapiro delves into the incredible story behind one of football's biggest superstars.

Elana Shapiro
13th June 2021

Refugee, international footballer, Division 1 Féminine winner, reconstructive surgeon. Nadia Nadim might be one of the most remarkable footballers ever.

She speaks 11 languages,  was named a  UNESCO Champion for Girls and Women’s Education, and even scored the two goals that qualified Denmark for the upcoming Euros.

Although she represents Denmark on the international stage, and is one of their star players, Nadim was actually born in Afghanistan. Her father, a general in the Afghan army, was murdered by the Taliban when she was only ten and her mother consequently fled the country with Nadia and her four sisters for the UK.

It’s a time which Nadia remembers clearly, describing in her book, ‘Min Histoire’ (also nominated for Sports Book of the Year) the fear of being locked in a lorry for days with little food and water. When the lorry doors finally opened, she and her family were surprised to realise that they were in Denmark, not the UK.

She wrote, “What I’ve been through as a kid forged me into this person I am. I really enjoy winning and I want to succeed no matter what because I don’t want to go back to where I was as a kid being poor.”

It was at a refugee camp in Denmark that Nadim began to play football. Being able to play distracted from the harsh realities of the camp and something which Nadim is so grateful for, that she has teamed up with PSG and KLABU to help build sports clubs in refugee camps around the world.

As a refugee, she was only able to apply for Danish citizenship once she turned 18 and whilst she received citizenship it seemed unlikely at one point that she would be able to play for the Danish National Team. Part of playing eligibility is determined by if you have lived five years in the country as a Danish citizen, however her call up was before she had turned 23. Ultimately this rule was successfully appealed, and she has now scored almost 100 goals for her country.

Despite her prodigal ability on the pitch, she wants her humanitarian work to be the thing that she is remembered most for and undoubtedly it will be. Her life demonstrates the powerful and positive impact that sport can have, and she is working hard so that other refugees can experience this too. She has also spent the last few years studying to be a surgeon and has now almost qualified. After she finishes her playing career, she intends to pursue this and specialise in reconstructive surgery.

Featured Image: Twitter @RacingLou

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