‘I understand how the people of Ukraine feel’ – How refugee turned NWSL star Nadia Nadim is helping the victims of Russia’s invasion

Nadia Nadim Ukraine splitGetty/GOAL

For the last two weeks, the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag has been more prominent than ever in all walks of life, including in sport.

The unity shown by athletes and fans in sending messages of support to the nation after Russia’s invasion has been huge, with Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, captain of the men’s national team, having been moved to tears by the affection being shown.

For Nadia Nadim, a refugee herself who fled Afghanistan as a child after her father was executed by the Taliban regime, it’s been "amazing" to see people come together to spread these messages, but the reasons why they are needed continue to sadden her.

"I understand how the people feel," Nadim told GOAL. "No one really wants to leave their families, homes, identity, everything behind.

"I can see by the pictures how the kids are and everyone's just in distress. It breaks my heart. I hate wars. For me, it doesn't make any sense. There's a lot of ways you can solve your problems and by killing innocent people, I don't think that's the solution. It has never been.

"That's the worst part for me - it's always the innocent ones that pay the price. The children, women, the ones that are not even involved. They have nothing to say. It's heartbreaking to watch."

Nadim has never been one to stand by while such things are happening, though. Last summer, she helped raise almost $90,000 for Afghan women after the Taliban took control of her home country again.

Now, the Racing Louisville forward is working with Game of Our Lives (GOL), a social platform designed to encourage and facilitate social activism, on its Humane Ukraine campaign, which launched on Friday morning. Through it, people can donate items or money, sign petitions, educate others and more.

"I thought it was an amazing idea," Nadim said. "I want to help, I want to make a change and having a platform where you actually have more people to help you and see it, I think that's a cool way to do it. For me, it was a no-brainer."

Initially, when Nadim was approached about working with GOL, it was to create action that could empower women and girls, addressing gender inequality. The focus now is on helping those in Ukraine – but she has "a lot of plans" further down the line, too.

"In so many countries, girls are not allowed to get an education or even be a part of sports," she said. "Having the opportunity to maybe bring sports in one way or another will be amazing because - this is something from my experience - I think football has a huge power. It's not just a game, it's also a tool to educate.

"I feel like I've done it when I was younger, in my community. I just kept playing football and then, in the end, people turn and have a different point of view. If we can do that on a bigger scale and in areas where girls are not allowed to attend football, then we educate the people around them. That'll be amazing.

"You want little girls to have the same opportunities, same access, as boys."

Demanding better for women and girls has always been something Nadim has stood for. Last year, as the NWSL was rocked by allegations of negligence and sexual abuse, she drew attention to some of her experiences.

In a series of tweets, Nadim claimed that her signature had been faked on a contract extension in the past and, after suffering an ACL injury in September, that lawyers at the league said she had to have surgery in the U.S., or they could consider taking "actions" against her.

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"If something's unfair, or something's not being done right, I think you have an obligation to use your voice," she added. "By using your voice, you're addressing an issue. By addressing the issue, you have the opportunity to change it or fix the problem. For me, it's always been the case.

"I was in shock when all of that happened [in the NWSL] and it seems like it's been going on for such a long time. That's what bothered me, you know? Imagine if we had stopped this earlier. We could've helped so many girls or players before.

"I really hope that from now on, in the future, we're not going to see things like that in the league and then the only thing we have to concentrate on is football and how we can improve the game even more and make it even bigger."