The Asian Reporter 19th Annual
Scholarship & Awards Banquet -
Nadim brings passionate personality to Portland
By Jody Lim
The Asian Reporter
The Portland Thorns concluded a historic 2016 season in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in early October. The Thorns won the NWSL Shield, which is awarded to the club with the best regular-season record; averaged nearly 17,000 fans per game at home matches, which is the highest attendance of any women’s professional soccer team in the world; finished with the best regular-season home record (8-1-1) in the league; strung together a 12-game unbeaten streak, which is the second-longest streak without a loss in the history of the NWSL; and hosted a home playoff match for the first time in club history.
Unfortunately, a hard-fought semifinal playoff loss to the Western New York Flash at Providence Park brought the season to an end. With the Flash and Thorns tied with two goals apiece after 90 minutes, the match headed into extra time. Western New York managed to find the net two more times while the Thorns were only able to put away one more goal. A crowd of 20,086 soccer-crazy fans — a new NWSL attendance record for a playoff game — cheered as the teams competed in a physical game that was also nationally televised.
One of the contributors to Portland’s success this year is Afghanistan-born Nadia Nadim, who joined the Thorns in January in a trade with Sky Blue FC, the club she played for during the 2014 and 2015 NWSL seasons. Nadim’s road to Portland has been a long one.
Fans of the Thorns feel as well as see Nadim’s love of the game of soccer at every match. In addition to describing Nadim as a "super-passionate player," teammate Meleana "Mana" Shim said she’s a fierce competitor, someone who is "constantly watching and studying the game," pushing herself and those around her to become better. Nadia has a great attitude as well as a vibrant and intense personality, Shim said, and also mentioned that she very much enjoys battling against Nadim during the team’s training sessions.
Nadim, 28, was born in Herat, Afghanistan on January 2, 1988. She was raised in Kabul, Afghanistan until she was 12 years old. She and her family had a typical life in Kabul until the war started. Her mother, Hamida, was a school principal, and her father, Rabani, was a general in the Afghan military. Nadim and her sisters — Giti, Diana, Muskan, and Mujda — attended school, spent time together, and went about daily life.
But things changed in 2000, when Nadim’s father disappeared. Much later, they were told he had been executed by members of the Taliban.
About a month after Rabani’s disappearance, Hamida fled to Pakistan with her daughters. From Pakistan, the family was smuggled away in a truck. Their original destination was London, where extended family lived, but they ended up in Denmark, in Randers, a small city in the north.
After spending about a day in Randers, Nadia and her family ended up at Sandholm, an accommodation center for asylum seekers in Copenhagen. There, her new life began amid days filled with language lessons and pickup soccer games. Later, her family finally found a home of their own. In the summer of 2008. Nadia acquired her Danish citizenship.
Eventually, Nadia committed to a local soccer club, where she began learning the game beyond the many hours she’d spent running around playing pickup ball. By 2005, she was playing professionally — first with B52 Aalborg then seven seasons with IK Skovbakken (2006-2012). She joined Fortuna Hjørring in 2012 and helped the club win a league title in 2014.
In the latter part of the 2014 NWSL season, Fortuna Hjørring loaned Nadim to Sky Blue FC. Immediately upon arriving in New Jersey, Nadim scored seven goals in six games. She stayed on the east coast during the 2015 season as well, tallying six goals and an assist in 18 matches for Sky Blue. Nadim credits Fortuna Hjørring teammate Tiffany Weimer with providing encouragement to her in 2012 to look for an opportunity in the NWSL to challenge herself. (Weimer played the 2013 season with the Thorns.) In January of this year, Portland announced the signing of Nadim.
Representing her new country since 2009, Nadim has earned 58 caps (international appearances) with the Denmark Women’s National Team. In September, she was called up to play two matches as part of the qualifying group stage of the UEFA Women’s EURO competition. Denmark won both matches, defeating Moldova 5-0 and Sweden 2-0; Nadim contributed to the wins, scoring three goals.
Beyond soccer, Nadia is pursuing a medical degree with a specialization in plastic surgery at Aarhus University in Denmark and has about 18 more months until she completes the program. Her days in Portland have been filled with her studies as well as soccer practices and matches. The budding doctor is fluent in Danish, German, Dari, Urdu, and English, and she also speaks some French.
Nadim’s sisters, along with their mother, who is now retired, still live in Denmark. Giti, 29, who as a youth also played soccer for the Denmark Women’s National Team, is currently studying medicine and is expected to finish in January. Diana, 25, a seven-time Danish boxing champion, is scheduled to fight her next bout in England in mid-December. Muskan, 22, is enrolled in nursing school and should earn her degree in about a year. Mujda, 20, plans to start university studies in about a year, after doing some travelling.
With the 2016 season now in the books, Thorns FC players and fans will have to wait until spring to see more soccer records set. The adaptable Nadim will soon be able to focus a bit more attention on her studies. As Shim mentioned about her determined and outgoing teammate and friend when asked about soccer and life, she said Nadia approaches both the same way: "When she does something, she’s fully committed to it."
As witnessed by Nadim’s life so far, her hard work, persistence, and passion will shine through to the people around her. She is getting closer to earning her medical degree and the Thorns next season will be motivated and ready to go.
The NWSL championship match between the Washington Spirit and the Western New York Flash, which will be televised live on Fox Sports 1, is scheduled for Sunday, October 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. To learn more about the Thorns and the NWSL, visit <www.portlandthorns.com> and <www.nwslsoccer.com>.
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