|History and Biodata
Mrs. Khalida Popal was born 1988 in Afghanistan. She is the former captain of the Afghan National Team (2007), former head of the women’s football committee and finance committee of the Afghan Football Federation AFF, now working for Hummel International and as a project coordinator for Cross Cultures Project Association in Denmark.
To Khalida, who grew up in a highly conflict-struck area in Afghanistan, football has always been more than a means of distraction. Very early in life, her passion lead her to being discriminated against. When she was a kid and playing on the school ground, people who watched her from outside of the school walls, offended her using annoying and insulting words.
To her, football was the only way to fight for women’s rights and to bring about change in society. By doing this, she faced extreme social opposition and had to leave her home country. Khalida now works as a volonteer in Asylum camps in Denmark, and she is a project coordinator of the NGO Cross Cultures Project that promotes barrier-free grassroots sports.
In 2005, the Afghan National Team was founded by only four women. The initiators of the first women national team experienced the political explosiveness of their activities as they received death threats and were faced with social exclusion. The individual initiative has convinced the federation and sports ministry to address the challenges for sportswomen, which are a lack of security, cultural barriers and poverty. The Afghan Football Federation has built up a section for the promotion of women’s football that contains 24 female football teams throughout the country, except for rural areas.
The women organize football events like football festivals, tournaments and friendly matches, which are sometimes combined with educational work to campaign for the right of women to get an education, to do sports, and to participate in society as men do.
She left Kabul 2011and made her way to India. Eventually she managed to make her way to an asylum centre in Norway and from there to another centre in Denmark, where after nearly a year in a camp she was finally granted residency.
With the help of a psychiatrist and antidepressants she gradually came to terms with the changes in her life. She started swimming and cycling. Working with other women in the camps she encouraged them to use sport to make themselves feel better, to have a focus and to try to think of something other than the situation they were in. As a result she set up her own organisation – Girl Power.
Girl Power finds volunteer instructors in all sports to work with the refugees and to build a bridge between them and the local Danish residents. “Sport is a great tool to break the ice and to help women gain self-confidence,” she explains.
Last year (2016) she worked with Hummel, the Danish sportswear manufacturer that supports the Afghan teams, to design the first hijab that could be worn to play football. “
Last week (Mar 8, 2017), to mark International Women’s Day, her work was acknowledged by Theirworld, the global education charity founded by Sarah Brown, as part of their campaign #RewritingTheCode. Khalida, now 29, was given the 2017 Challenge Award. The aim of the campaign is to challenge all the embedded prejudices that prevent women and girls from achieving equality.
Meanwhile, she is about to start a degree course in sports management and has set her sights on a job with the UN or Fifa. She has already told the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, how she believes equality could be brought to the international arena.
Having been supported by her own parents at every stage of her incredible journey Khalida’s love and respect for her mother and father, who have now joined her in Denmark, is immense. “I don’t know if I will ever have children but if I have a daughter I will let her decide what she wants to be. I will buy the toys she wants. I will not tell her ‘you are a girl this toy belongs to you’, this one doesn’t. I will give her a football and a doll and let her decide.(20170315)
Fifa is examining allegations that members of the Afghanistan national women’s team were sexually and physically abused by men from the country’s football federation, including its president, Keramuddin Karim. Khalida Popal has spoken, together with the players Shabnam Mobarez and Mina Ahmadi and the head coach, Kelly Lindsey, about the ordeal of players within the country and their frustrations with a system that, they feel, has failed to protect them.(201801201)
She speaks Pashtu, Dari, Danish and English