Nadia Nadiam in front of Copenhagen City Hall

From point zero to the pinnacle of elite sports

Nadia Nadim has gone all the way. From fleeing the Taliban to becoming Denmark's female power striker and first Danish national team player with a refugee background. In this exclusive interview with Mission East she discloses what has given her the impetus to go after the trophy.

In 2001, Mission East moves into Afghanistan with emergency relief for a population that has starved and left devastated during the war against the Taliban. Shortly before, Nadia Nadim, who is nine years old at the time and lives in Kabul, lost her father, Rabena Khan. As a senior general of the Afghan army, he has been abducted and executed by the Taliban. Nadia's mother, Namida, now alone with five little girls, fears for her and the girls' lives and decides to flee. Coincidentally, they ended up in Denmark in 2003 at an asylum center in North Jutland.

Everything was chaos

We catch Nadia Nadim on the phone from Georgia between two international matches in the ongoing European Classification Round.

She comes straight from the closing workout before the next match against the Georgia women's team. Denmark's female star striker is bursting with energy. In fact, almost so much so that the words fall over each other in their eagerness to come out. There is a determination bordering on restlessness in her voice. You have the sensation of talking to someone who is not wasting her time. But that energy wasn't there back in 2000 after Nadia, her mother and sisters received the news of her father's execution:

“It was really tough. Everything was chaos and you had no idea what was waiting just around the corner. We didn't know if we would be alive the next day, ”says Nadia.

Never again

How did you personally progress from the existential point zero?

“I think when we finally came to Denmark, we had experienced so much and been through so much. And suddenly you are in a situation where you get another chance. Everyone in my family was very keen that we should never end up in such a situation again. That we should become something at all costs. I think that's what was the driving force. ”

Nadia takes a moment to reflect and then adds: "I have actually read a number of articles that show that the most successful people in the world are the ones who, at some point, have had enough of being in a situation, whether it be poverty or an experience they have had, where they have said to themselves:

"I promise myself that I will never end up in such a situation again". I can recognize that from myself. You get extra hunger. I still feel that I will never experience that stuff again. I don't want to experience those feelings again, it's that simple. ”

"I will never experience those feelings again. It's that simple"


Nadia Nadim in a moment of victory

It is about finding inner peace

Many of the people - and especially children - whom Mission East is helping in Afghanistan are greatly affected by trauma due to war and displacement. And when we mention it to Nadia, whose childhood has been clearly marked by the war, she says:

“People deal with trauma differently in life. Some need to talk about it and others hide it. I've never had to talk about things, because that's not how I feel I can get rid of it. And it doesn't help me. For me, it's more about what's inside my head and figuring out how to relax on the inside. "

"I've never had to talk about things"

Finding peace through prayer and meditation

In this connection, Nadia tells how she found a means to help herself with the nightmares by which she was haunted in Denmark in the beginning, while she and her family still lived at the asylum center:

“It was actually my aunt who told me one day that maybe I should try to pray before going to bed. I tried that, and since then I haven't actually had a nightmare. "

Today, Nadia still finds inner peace by praying and using prayer as a form of meditation, especially before facing an important match that requires deep concentration:

"For me, prayer and meditation are almost the same thing when you just spend 10 minutes to an hour ignoring everything that happens around you and concentrating on what is happening inside oneself."

Nadia Nadim is arriving

Facts about Nadia Nadim

• Born in 1988 in Herat, northwestern Afghanistan. Raised in Kabul

• In 2009, she became the first Danish national team player with a refugee background

• Studies medicine at Aarhus University and has a dream to work for MSF

• In 2017 she was named Danish Person of the Year by Berlingske (Danish newspaper)

• Last year she came out with her book "My Story"

• Helped to win the European silver in 2017 with the Danish national team

• A French Ligue 1 player - in Paris Saint-Germain