When I started playing football, I didn’t even know my home country of Denmark had a women’s national football team. Now, I’m playing on the world stage in my second Uefa European Women’s Championship campaign after an unbelievable experience playing at the finals in 2017 tournament.
I was once a little girl with big dreams and a burning passion to play this game that I love. Now, I look into the eyes of young girls and see myself – but this time there is a difference. When I was young, we only had male footballers to look up to … how far we’ve come.
After a record-breaking FIFA Women’s World Cup, which was watched by millions of people, the upcoming European Women’s Championship 2022 will be hosted in England, with matches at historic stadiums including Old Trafford and Wembley – marking a new dawn for women’s football.
Perceptions have shifted since I began my career, but there is still a way to go. Female players are still fighting for equal pay and conversations around race and gender equality continue – as do derogatory, misogynistic and gender-biased social media comments, which can have a huge effect on a player’s performance. Female players are still fighting for equal pay.
One physical change I’d personally like to see in the women’s game is to reconsider the size of the ball we use – this could have a huge impact on performance. Male players can move the ball quicker and play a bit faster over a longer distance due to physical differences. If the ball was lighter or smaller, we could shoot longer and score from further down the pitch, this would only add to the entertainment of the women’s game.
We can make adjustments to women’s football, but we can’t lose sight of what makes it so special, that sense of community, transparency and accessibility. For example, I connect with our supporters. I will happily stand outside for two hours after a game to meet fans and sign shirts. This is not so common in the men’s game.
Young girls should understand the important issues that are impacting our game right now, and feel confident, empowered to face them. Those in professional women’s football have a duty to pave the way for the next generation, who I truly hope will go on to achieve bigger and better things that I’ve been able to in my career so far.
To connect with the next generation, I host The Football Podcast from Uefa’s Together #WePlayStrong campaign, with Shanice van de Sanden (Wolfsburg and Netherlands internationalist) and Rocky Hehakaija (Dutch street football legend). Together we tackle the common misconceptions in the women’s game and reveal our challenging personal experiences.
Our influential friends Megan Rapinoe, Pernille Harder, Sari van Veenendaal and Kenza Dali also share their opinions, on what needs to change to improve the game and to ensure we keep the young stars of tomorrow motivated.
Girls who have a footballing dream should never give up, now is your time to shine and make your voice heard. Together, we can take on the world.
Nadia Nadim is a striker for Paris Saint-Germain and an international for Denmark