From where I stand: Khalida Popal

Date: Monday, July 25, 2016

Khalida Popal. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown


In Afghanistan, women football players are called prostitutes. Football is seen as a male game.

My mother taught me to play football and at first I played for fun. But soon I started facing resistance from both men and women. My teachers kicked me out of their class because I played football. But if men can play football, why not women?

I became the first female captain of the Afghan National Football team in 2007. I chose football as a tool to stand for my rights, and to help other women stand for their rights.

In my country, women are not respected…they are not even seen as human. It is important to first work with women to build their capacity and confidence. Women have to first believe that they are human, they are strong.

Football allowed us as to come together as a group, to raise awareness. We were four girls in the team. People threw rocks and garbage at us. I received many death threats.

Finally, I had to choose between my family and being alive. I left my country. It was the most difficult decision. I am a woman, and I am strong. I will not be silenced.”

SDG 5: Gender equality

Khalida Popal made history by becoming the first female captain of the Afghan National Football team in 2007. She now lives in asylum in Denmark. Ms. Popal spoke at an event co-hosted by UN Women, Brazil and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60), which highlighted sport as a vehicle to achieve gender equality and end violence against women and girls. Sustainable Development Goal 5 aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, and ensure equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.