June 28, 2020

"Football is not about sports it's about me creating impact and challenging the assumptions people have about women"

"Football is not about sports it's about me creating impact and challenging the assumptions people have about women"

I am born and raised in Northern California in the united states of America. Knowing where I come from has helped me in knowing where I am going.

I started my journey from joining an all-girls football team in a small-town to playing for the Afghanistan National Team by the age of 14 to playing for Santa Clara University a top 20 Division program in the US. I still feel that my journey continues, and I hope that it will not have any ends.

For me football is not about sports its about me creating impact and challenging the assumptions people have about women. Some people tell me that they don’t see the point of me making a career as a professional football player because I am a woman and I will have other responsibilities.

I also get to hear a lot of sexist comments and rude behavior,

but I have developed a tough skin and I brush it off. People’s opinions or sexist remarks are of no value to me. You cannot shame or try to embarrass me for something I am not ashamed or embarrassed of. This confidence in myself was fostered by my incredible support system (Mom, Dad, and brother), and for this among many other things, I am indebted to them.

I feel lucky that I have people who support me, a brown woman, who is trying to create visibility and representation for future generations. It is the bigger picture that some people are missing unfortunately.

What is the most toughest part of being a female professional football player ?

The most significant difference in being a woman in this male centric sport is in monetary. I am playing at the highest level in Germany, Bundesliga, and like every other female footballer, what we get paid is drastically different than the men. Since this issue with pay gap is a multi-layered and difficult topic of discussion less progress in the international club level, but some progress is being made in national teams who have begun to fight for equal pay.

I deserve to be here, I have a purpose for what I am doing

One of the toughest parts of being a professional athlete is the physical challenges like training multiple times a day, being constantly fit, dealing with injuries, and to manage the physical challenges you must develop a strong mentality which is even more challenging. Being in Germany completely alone far away from my family my home I work a lot with having a constant inner dialogue, reminding myself that I deserve to be here, I have a purpose for what I am doing. You must believe in yourself.

You have to remain patient and understanding of the very fact that it is a journey, a long journey in which we usually don’t see the fruits of our labor until later. Developing this mental strength has been the most difficult yet humbling growths I have faced.

Hailai

Photo by Martin Meier