Khalida Popalzai is an international football player and activist. Born in 1987 in Kabul, Khalida was taught how to play football by her mother, who was a physical education teacher. Her mother focused on the power of sports and how it can foster confidence and create new opportunities for young girls.
Khalida experienced persecution as a teenager playing soccer under Taleban rule. The Taleban banned women from playing sports and attending sporting events. In order to avoid being caught, Khalida and her friends played after school in an isolated yard. Although forbidden, more girls joined Khalida in playing football in secret. Empowered by the growth in the number of young girls playing, Khalida eventually moved to playing in public fields after the fall of the Taleban.
In 2007, with the support of the Afghan Football Association, Khalida formed the Afghan Women’s Football League with her friends. In the recent years, she has had the opportunity to train with girls around the world, advocate on the importance of sports education for girls, and spearhead change to make football safer and more inclusive for women. In 2018, she led a movement of Afghan women football players who courageously told their stories of abuse, corruption, and harassment while playing on the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team and brought global attention to holding FIFA accountable to end discrimination and harassment harming women in the field. Khalida has a degree in International Marketing Management from the Business Academy of Denmark.