Profile: Nadia Nadim – from war-torn Afghanistan to ‘pioneering’ Manchester City

There’s more than just football to Afghan-born Danish international Nadia Nadim – who from January will start her Manchester City Women’s career.

Fluent in nine languages and training to become a surgeon, the 29-year-old has gone through unimaginable hardship to get to where she is today.

Born in Herat, Afghanistan, she grew up in a war zone and her father, an Afghan soldier, was executed by the Taliban in 2000 – leaving the rest of the family with no choice but to move elsewhere.

It would be the start of an incredible journey for Nadia, who was forced to seek asylum along with her mother and four sisters aged 12.

They eventually settled in Denmark, and it was there – in the refugee centre – where Nadia discovered her love for the beautiful game.

In her own words: “It became an obsession really fast. From then until now I feel the same way.”

Following a successful trial with B-52 Aalborg, she signed her first professional contract in 2006, joining IK Slovbakken.

Scandinavia soon became her new home, as she was granted Danish citizenship in 2008.


Despite not having lived in the country for five years after turning 18, Nadia was given the green light to represent Denmark at international level with the DBU making an exception in her case.

She’s impressed ever since, scoring 22 goals in 74 appearances for the Nordic country including a goal at this summer’s European Championship where Denmark reached the final but lost to the Netherlands.

At club level, Nadia furthered her career first in Denmark in a two-year spell at Fortuna Hjorring (2012-14) where she played in the UEFA Champions League, before moving across the Atlantic to the United States.

Following a stint with Sky Blue FC, she moved on to Portland Thorns FC where she won the 2016 league title – contributing nine goals in 20 games.

Speaking of her delight to sign for FA Women’s Super League champions City, Nadia said:  “It feels awesome and fantastic to be a part of this club. I feel honoured and humble to be in this situation.

“This club is doing so much for women’s football, they are a pioneer in the women’s game and I want to be a part of that.

“I know the club has such big ambition – one of them being winning the Champions League so it wasn’t a difficult choice for me.”

Interestingly, Nadia is more than just a footballer. She is currently deep into a medical degree at Aarhus University in Denmark where she is training to become a reconstructive surgeon while she speaks Danish, English, German, Persian, Dari, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and French.

“In the off season I try to continue my schooling and during the season I try and concentrate on football,” Nadia told BBC Sport.

“I love playing football, it’s my hobby, but I want to have something besides it. Some day when I’m done and I become a doctor, I’ll be really glad I did study.”

Image courtesy of Laura Snodgrass via Twitter, with thanks.

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