Danish sportswear company Hummel unveiled a new uniform for the Afghan women’s soccer team this week — including integrated hijabs. In celebration of International Women’s Day, the brand presented the new look for the Lions. Free of bulky headscarves, players can still take the field while fully covered if they choose.
— hummel International (@hummel1923) March 8, 2016
Former Afghan team captain and Hummel spokesperson Khalida Popal worked closely with the company to develop the new style.
Popal learned to play soccer in secret, behind the high protective walls of her school, always after hours. It was 2004 and she was a 16-year-old living in an Afghanistan still feeling the pressure of the Taliban. When she and the small group of girls she played with began to venture out they were met with harsh resistance. “People threw garbage and stones at us and warned us that we had to stop playing soccer or they would kill us,” Popal told People.
They didn’t stop playing. Eventually, with the help of the Afghanistan Football Association, they created eight women’s soccer teams and went on to represent their country as members of the first national women’s soccer team.
Popal faced numerous death threats for her advocacy for women and was forced to flee to Denmark in 2011. Injury brought her playing career to an early end, but she’s proud of the work she continues to do. “It was a huge honor to captain my country but it was an even bigger honor to be seen as a role model and an inspiration for thousands of young girls and women in Afghanistan,” Popal told Hummel.