Nadia Nadim is without doubt one of the more vibrant characters in women’s football. The Danish-raised Afghan-born striker immediately stands out from the pack with her trademark rainbow headband.
And a cameo appearance at the tail-end of last year’s National Women's Soccer League season proves that Nadim boasts plenty of football substance to go with the charisma. The 27-year-old made her first move outside Denmark, and immediately made a splash in the USA scoring seven goals in six games for Sky Blue FC, adding three assists for good measure. Her contribution almost single-handedly lifted the stuttering New Jersey-based side into play-off contention. And it left Nadim with the best goal-ratio of any player in the league.
It is little wonder Sky Blue re-signed the Danish international for the upcoming NWSL season, which commences on Friday. Sky Blue opens their campaign on Sunday with a challenging trip to face champions FC Kansas City. Aside from a one-week break, the league will run throughout June’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada. However Nadim, unlike many other big-name recruits, will be available throughout the season after Denmark’s disappointing Canada 2015 campaign left them well adrift of group winners Switzerland.
New horizons, fresh opportunities *
After her brief taste of the United Stated last year, Nadim is hungry to enjoy more professional and life experiences Stateside. “I love challenges,” Nadim told *FIFA.com. “I love that you have to fight for every inch in every game in the US. That makes you a better player. It was a lot harder than in the Danish league, and every game was like an international. I loved the mentality, which is quite different to a European one. I felt my mentality fitted in, and that I really belonged.”
With a lean lightweight physique Nadim would not look out of place as a middle-distance track and field athlete. Playing as a central striker or wide on the frontline, Nadim boasts a blinding turn of speed backed by a hunger to succeed.
I want to show that everything is possible. It doesn’t matter about your background, you should go and do it.
Nadim says that not only does her personality comes out on the field, but the better the environment the stronger the output. “Mostly I’m really happy person,” she says with typical zestful enthusiasm. “I sing a lot… especially if we win. I like to have fun on the pitch. When I feel down, I’m probably not going to play a good game. “
Adding to Nadim’s individualism is the fact she is soon to join a rare club by becoming a football-playing doctor. Despite her busy football life, Nadim is now three-quarters of the way though a medical degree. She even hopes to spend some time learning some practical skills in US hospitals over the coming months, en-route to a possible career in obstetrics or plastic surgery.
*Multi-coloured identity *Nadim cuts a distinctive figure wherever she goes thanks to her trademark headband. Nadim, who makes her own headbands with a touch of the kind of do-it-yourself attitude sometimes found in women’s football, takes up the back-story to her trademark look. “I started wearing a headband when I was a youth player in Denmark, and no-one was doing that,” Nadim says, putting emphasis on the latter part of the sentence.
“I don’t like to be like everyone else. So I decided I wanted to have my own style. Then I noticed a few other headbands, but I didn’t want to look like everyone else. Then I sewed them together three headbands at once in the rainbow colours, and that is how it started. Because I always make my own headbands, I guess no one else has it. But it doesn’t symbolise anything, I just like the colours.”
Nadim’s individualism is perhaps unsurprising given her idiosyncratic background. Born in Kabul, a teenage Nadim and her family fled Afghanistan after her father was executed by the Taliban. Nadim’s family ended up in Denmark, alongside a modest-sized Afghan community.
Sporting success for the Nadim family is a recurring theme. “I think we get our sporting ability from our father,” says Nadim, adding with pride that her father played hockey for Afghanistan. One of Nadia’s sisters, Giti, played football for Denmark at youth level, while the other sibling Diana is a seven-time Danish boxing champion.
“My Afghan background is very important [to me],” says Nadim. “It is a part of me and I will never forget that. It is one of the reasons that I am who I am. My mum says it is important for us to remember our heritage, and I think she is right.
“More and more I’m becoming aware that I’m a role-model. There are a lot of young girls - be they Muslim, Middle-Eastern or whatever - that I want to show that everything is possible. It doesn’t matter about your background, you should go and do it.”