My name is Manozh Noori. I’m 20 years old. I was born on 11 March 2003 in Kabul Afghanistan, and I’m now living in Australia.
I lost my dad a few years after I was born. He passed away suddenly from unknown causes. I was raised by my mother and my sister. My strict brothers and relatives were the ones who used to ban me from being a soccer player.
Beginning of my career
I was playing basketball when I was at primary school. In my childhood, there was no soccer ground or opportunity of playing soccer, so I had to join basketball instead. Because of my passion for soccer, I used to play soccer with boys on the street away from our house so wasn't spotted by my brothers and my relatives.
My family and my relatives hated sport, and they did not know that I was playing soccer with boys. I used to dress up like a boy just to play soccer with them, because that was the only way I could play when I was a kid.
After a few years, I joined our school senior soccer team and I used to play soccer without telling my family, except my sister and later my mother. These two strong women were beside me all the time. Meanwhile, I was threatened by my own brothers and relatives because I got caught by them after they had banned, even threatened me, to not play soccer again. They even tried to ban me from studying at school.
Days later, the passion and the talent that I had for soccer kept me strong and stable. I kept playing with my school soccer team and I won games. I was selected as best player and best female scorer on that time among all Capital schools senior soccer league in Afghanistan.
I did not know that Afghanistan had an Afghanistan women’s national soccer team or that there were any female teams. I knew nothing until I watched some videos on TV and I heard about Afghanistan’s women’s team, which ran soccer activities in Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF). I explained to my elder sister about how interested and passionate I was about the idea of joining the women’s soccer team.
First, my sister, because she was scared of threats and our safety, did not accept. I tried to find a club to join, and I found the Tawana Ladies Soccer Team. I joined the club for a test then in the first day of training I got accepted by the club.
I then won Futsal tournaments and football, and the Kabul Champions League. I was later invited by the Sangar Ladies Football Team. I won the Kabul League with Sangar FC, and the Afghanistan Women’s Champions League. I was selected as best player and best goal scorer for a few years in a row by the AFF, and then I started playing soccer with Royal Kabul FC. I won the same titles in a row.
During the six years since school, I used to wear a mask to cover my face so that I wasn't caught by my brothers and relatives. I had to cover my face because my games and all tournaments used to broadcast by various TV stations, social media and types of other media in Afghanistan.
That was the only way I could keep playing. Later, I met a team of girls who I trained with and registered in AFF as Noori Sports Ladies Football Team.
The fall of Kabul to the Taliban
I was invited by Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team (AWNFT) two years ago. I accepted the invitation and I used to train with national team, but because of the issues and threat of relatives and broader society I had to quit.
I was invited again in 2020, so I talked to my family and I had friends who supported me during the time and encouraged me to talk about my decision to join to national team. Therefore, I accepted and I kept playing without telling anyone, except my mother, my sister, and those who always supported me. I traveled with Afghanistan National Team to Tajikistan to play in the Asian Women’s Championship Cup.
After we got back from Tajikistan to Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, the Taliban took over Afghanistan. As women, we were all banned and threatened by the Taliban. I was scared for my life because of my relatives, including those who were against me playing soccer for years. I had no hope, I was lost and I was frightened about the situation that happened suddenly and brought huge and unlimited darkness in my life. I could not imagine it before, and I did not expect that the Taliban would take control of Afghanistan.
I spoke to activist Khalida Popal regarding the situation that we all were going through. She promised us to help us to evacuate from Afghanistan. Then, the Afghanistan women’s national soccer team received letters of evacuation support from Australia Department of Home Affairs as a result of the help and cooperation of Khalida Popal, Craig Foster and others.
I was always passionate and dreaming of becoming professional soccer player. I have never quit or given up on my dreams. I believed and worked hard and I kept going. This sport and my dream saved my life: because of that fearlessness, I’m alive and living in a peaceful environment.
Now I’m playing in Afghanistan women’s team that is collaborating with Melbourne Victory team. Everything is going the way I’m expecting, and I got invited by Melbourne Victory Academy to undertake further training which is amazing.
To those girls who struggle the same way I used to. Never give up, even if you are a girl, there would be no obstacles if you keep dreaming and working. You will be appreciated and proud of all your hard work.