The Afghanistan women's national football jersey now comes with a hijab
Former Afghanistan women's football team captain Khalida Popal designed the new kit with Hummel
FIFA lifting the ban on head covers in 2014 was already a great milestone for hijab- or turban-wearing football players all over the world. Now, the Afghanistan national football team, The Lions of Afghanistan, have introduced the first official jersey that incorporates a makeshift hijab for its female players.
Khalida Popal, former captain and founding member of the nation's women's football team, worked with the Afghanistan Football Federation and Danish sportswear company Hummel to design the uniform. The new kit comes with a hooded inner top and leggings that can be worn inside the shirt and pants if the wearer prefers to be covered. The front of the jersey, of course, sports the lion emblem, embossed onto the fabric like a wood carving.
We're proud to present a new national team shirt for the Afghan Football Federation which gives a double reason to celebrate International Women’s Day. Click the link in our bio to read more. #hummelsport #hummel #AfghanLions #IWD2016 #football #footballjersey #footballkit #soccer #InternationalWomensDay #AFF #ChangetheWorldThroughSport
"When I started playing football, I came with one goal... I will work a lot for women's equality," Khalida said in a video for Hummel. "Football wasn't only a game for me. It was more like a tool to empower women."
Although her professional football career ended years ago after she injured her knee, Khalida continued her work as an advocate for women's rights and fought for women's football to be embraced by the nation, despite having received death threats. Even after it became more widely acceptable for women to participate formally in sports in Afghanistan, the issue of some of the women having to wear hijabs remained. The concern was that headscarves were impractical on the field.
"It was very challenging for our teammates because our country is Islamic and the government and the people really want the women's national team to wear a hijab," she told People. "But our team was traveling to South Asian countries and it was very hot there and very difficult to play with big scarves around our necks and heads."
Needless to say, the new jersey that was developed by Hummel made a big difference and closes the gap between modest wear and sports attire.
"The uniform means a lot for the national team of Afghanistan – especially for the women," Khalida added. "Because they fought to wear it and it says, 'I am a woman and I'm able to play under the flag of my country.'"