Nadia Nadim was interviewed by Anders Hagen a few weeks ago on the Danish football federation’s podcast Landsholdslejren. I really enjoyed it, so here’s most of it! Any interested Danish speakers can find the whole interview here.
About the French language
AH: A big bonjour, Madamoiselle Nadia Nadim.
NN: Bonjour, monsieur, vous allez bien?
AH: Ahhh, oui oui baguette. I can’t really speak French, Nadia.
NN: It’s okay, it sounded very authentic, oui oui baguette.
About the Danish national team
AH: Do you know how many caps you have?
NN: I don’t. I just meet up, have no idea anything that happens beyond that. How many do I have? Is it over 80? AH: Yeah, it’s definitely over 80. NN: Is it over 90? AH: It’s also over 90. NN: It is? Oh, wow. I didn’t know that. Pass. AH: You’ve played 93 matches for the national team. NN: That’s very good. AH: It is very good. That’s around when they start to talk about legends. I think you could be called a legend. NN: I was already a legend at the beginning, but ok, fair enough.
AH: There we go! We like that. You’re totally right. It’s Euro qualifications week, you’re going to be playing against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last time you played a Euro qualifier, you played Georgia, can you remember that? It was at home back in November, you smashed them 14-0. You scored twice. Did you feel bad for their keeper?
NN: Honestly, I did. For me, after 5-0, 6-0, that’s fine. For me though, to score that many times in one match…I felt bad. And they were really sad afterwards. Yeah, we won, but we ruined their morale, it made me feel bad.
AH: And their keeper was also actually switched out after that match, and she’s quite young.
NN: It’s tough to single her out, it wasn’t just her fault, what else could she do? But sometimes in women’s football, some of the teams haven’t quite reached the right level yet, especially some of the countries that are a bit further away from the big European nations.
AH: And looking at our national team right now, there are some players playing at big addresses. Everton, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Djurgården, Inter, Fiorentina, PSG. Some massive clubs that you’re all playing at.
NN: I think it’s cool to see the development our players have gone through, most of us play at big clubs and that benefits both the national team and also women’s football in Denmark. I think the level [within the Danish national team] has always been pretty high, but of course it’s gotten better, women’s football is better, our opponents are better, matches are harder and closer, even if we won 14-0 against Georgia; those matches happen here and there. But women’s football in general has developed really well and that includes our team.
About coronavirus and becoming a doctor
AH: I think you’re a pretty wild person. You’re so honest, and clearly you don’t feel Jante’s Law. That’s cool.
NN: I wasn’t born here, so I don’t know what Jante’s Law is, honestly.
AH: That makes sense. Well, you make a bunch of money playing football, you’re from Afghanistan, you grew up in Aarhus, you’re damn good at football, and now you’re in training to become a doctor. There aren’t many in football who, alongside their sports career, go into one of the hardest educations there is. Do you have medicine books with you in camp now?
NN: I have my laptop with me because I have an assignment I’m writing right now. Not my books though, they’re too heavy. I would have had to pay 500 DKK extra because of all that extra weight – that isn’t a lie, that’s what it would cost going between Denmark and Paris. So now I have them all on my laptop.
AH: Why did you want to become a doctor?
NN: I don’t know, because I can? I think it’s a cool job, I love working with people and helping others, and doctors also make a lot of money. So a combination of those things.
AH: So you want to make money? Good money?
NN: Of course, when you go to school for so long, you may as well have a good life afterwards.
AH: That makes sense. You’ve probably also had good motivation during the coronavirus pandemic. And you live in France, one of the countries that was hardest hit. Has it ever affected you personally?
NN: No, we’re tested very frequently at the club. At the beginning it was almost every other day, now it’s a bit less. Some of my teammates have been positive, but they haven’t been sick, they were asymptomatic, so no, it hasn’t really affected me. We’ve been very protected, we always have masks on around the club, last time I was in Denmark I had a mask on and everyone was giving me weird looks. Of course in Paris, if you go out without a mask, then you get weird looks. But we’re with the club a lot, and then we’re at home a lot, so we’re mostly protected.
AH: What is it like playing football under coronavirus rules? Even now we’re sitting far apart and wearing masks, but it’s nothing compared to UEFA’s rules, Champions League rules.
NN: It was something. Here we already have all these rules, but with UEFA it was like that times five. In the bus, you always have to sit in the same spot, masks on always, if we’re eating, even if it’s with the same people and everyone just tested negative, we still have to have masks on if we get up to get food. It’s pretty wild, but again they’re doing it for our protection, and I feel very safe here. It’s weird overall, without fans and with closed doors, and not even our families can come to the stadiums, but everything is there to make sure we don’t get sick.
AH: You’re 32. Is being a doctor something you want to do right now, or do you want to keep playing football for the next 10 years?
NN: No, not the next 10 years! I want to play a few more years, but after that I really want to concentrate on the medicine field and try to be good there. 100% I want to be a surgeon. Whether it’ll be plastic surgery, or orthopedic surgery, time will tell, I think both are very interesting. One is more creative than the other, but we’ll take it one step at a time. First I’ll focus on being healthy, alive, happy, then we’ll see what happens.
About Euro 2017
AH: Okay, we’re going to jump in a time machine now. Back to 2017, before coronavirus. You were in a Euro final in Holland. You were also named Dane of the Year 2017 by the newspaper Berlingske. What was the coolest part of that?
NN: As I said in my acceptance speech, it’s a really really cool recognition. I got a trophy thing, actually a very nice trophy. I thought it was a big thing, because I wasn’t born here, so to be accepted as a Dane was a cool thing.
AH: So you felt that that was when you were accepted as a Dane?
NN: More accepted, but yes, I thought it was a big moment and I was proud to bear that title. It was a good day.
AH: You kicked ass at Euro 17, you were in the final against Holland. We’re not going to rehash the tournament, but what do you remember best from it?
NN: As you said, it was a really good year for us. We were underdogs, but we went all the way, we beat Germany, and then we were in the final. Of course, it was tough that we didn’t win, but it was still a good year for us, and I think we inspired a lot of young girls, which is really cool.
AH: Euro 21 was postponed until 2022, do you think you’ll still play?
NN: First we need to qualify, and then, it’s crazy, we’ll have to see if it’s played at all. Then we’ll have to see if we’re healthy, and we’ll have to see if FIFA and UEFA want to put it on. It’ll be held in England, and I used to play there, so it would be cool to go back. And it’ll be pretty big, the English national team will want to make an impression and show women’s football’s best side. It’ll be exciting.
AH: I think there are many of us football fans in Denmark who can remember where we were during the final. What did it mean to you, when everyone was probably going crazy and sending you tons of messages after that? What was it like with all that recognition? You were also celebrated when you came home, both at Viborg [home stadium for the Danish WNT] and at City Hall in Copenhagen.
NN: Honestly, I don’t really pay attention to social media in those kinds of tournaments, I don’t really care. But was cool to see, we went from having our DBU video camera to having international press following us. That was pretty cool. Then you know you’re really on the right path. Otherwise, yeah, of course the interest was growing. [Being celebrated in Denmark] was wild, experiencing people crying when we came in. Mom, I made it! It was a cool experience, of course, but also, that was kind of all it was. We were in the final, but we didn’t win. It would have been cool if we won, but that’s how it is in football.
About her work with refugees
AH: Why do you serve as the ambassador for the Danish Refugee Council?
NN: Why not? I think they do great work, they help people in need, and when I was asked to be ambassador, I thought that it comes to me quite naturally. I’m ambassador for multiple organizations, I always say yes even if I don’t have much time. When I know there are good people that want to make a difference, and if I can help in any way, then I say yes. It was the same with the DRC. I went with them on a trip to their refugee camp in Kenya and it was a crazy experience. I know how things work, I know what the world’s like – I was a refugee myself. I’m very grateful to live in a country like Denmark, France, Germany, where you have secure frames around everything, a safety net. You go to places where it’s not like that, where people are fleeing war or climate change, then it’s always hard, especially when it’s young people, kids, that are being affected. They don’t have any choice, they were born into that situation. I was in Sudan, there were a lot of people there from neighboring countries who had fled effects of climate change. It was really, really harsh conditions. And I was there to make a difference, cheer up some kids.
AH: Did you have a football with you?
NN: Of course I did. I also make sure that my sponsors, especially Nike, send a lot of equipment with me. Balls, shirts, shoes. It’s hard to see the kids like that, but it’s always great to see them cheer up and forget everything around them when they play football. And hopefully I’m a part of that difference and bringing focus to everything around us. I wish everyone could, once in their lives, even if it was just a day, see what things are like in relation to their lives. I think it would make one’s life, and quality of life, a lot better here, because you can really easily forget how good you have it and become ungrateful, bitter, complain about a lot of things. Of course you can always want more, that’s human nature, that’s fair enough. But sometimes, just waking up and being content and happy, that’s also very good.
AH: Could you tell us more about what it’s like for refugees during coronavirus? For us, we’re here complaining about being in our apartments all the time, with tons of food, and it’s hard to be with our families all the time. It brings more perspective.
NN: Not just refugees, many people out in the world have different conditions than we do here, than I do in Paris. I know it’s hard. Even though some of us aren’t working, we’re still earning money. Everyone is being hit, but some are being hit much harder.
About being at PSG
AH: Let’s go through your time in Paris – you’re having a wild time there, according to your Instagram. In this clip, you’re all dancing and singing, very musically, after a victory. NN: We’re a very multicultural team. AH: You have a good time.
NN: Definitely. I think we’ve had a great season, even if we lost to Lyon, they’re a really really strong team. It was a close match, but they won in the end, and that’s football. It’s been a long season, even if we’ve had a few months’ break, that doesn’t mean we’ve just had free time, we still have to stay in shape. I could feel on my body, especially after the Champions League match, that I maybe needed a week off. AH: You could vacation with Neymar. NN: Oh yeah, he called me up, asked if I could go with him, I told him I couldn’t today. It was lucky I didn’t go!
AH: You have a lot of different nationalities on the team. What language do you all speak together?NN: It’s quite different, actually. We have a lot of different groups too…I speak Scandinavian with those I can, the Norwegians, the Swedes, I speak Danish with Signe [Bruun] of course, I speak German with our Germans and Swiss, I speak French with the French. I practice all my languages.
AH: You speak French? Fluently? NN: Of course I do, I’ve lived there for a year, year and a half. AH: I don’t think that’s really an “of course”. You also speak German fluently? NN: Yes. AH: Okay. Wow. Well, it seems like a lot is happening at Paris, both at the men’s side and the women’s side. You have some crazy fans! I saw a video of fans going crazy before your semifinal.
NN: I love our fans. Ultras, PSG Ultras Collective. It’s very cool. I haven’t experienced that in the same way any other places, this group of young people, men, 98% men, that are usually shirtless, running around with flags and masks, creating a crazy atmosphere. I’ve played a few times without them, and there was no atmosphere. They sing for 90 minutes, I think they’re really cool and I’m really happy to have them. They create a cool atmosphere for matches and then afterwards we go over for ten or fifteen minutes to thank them.
AH: Would you like to have that same experience with the national team?
NN: Yeah, I like having a good atmosphere for matches. I don’t like when people just sit in their seats and clap. It’s an experience to be in a stadium, and I’ve been in a lot of stadiums now, and the best ones I’ve been in have had atmospheres created by fans and it makes it magical. So if we could learn to have some of that for the national team, though Viborg has been pretty cool…you can be a bit wild at football matches, because it brings a cool energy to the field and we can feel that.
AH: That’s pretty cool to hear, because my job is fan coordinator, and you’re telling me that my job is important.
NN: Your job is insanely important! Trust me.
Nadia said it herself – she’s a legend!