Female football players in Afghanistan’s national team have a new kit – complete with a hijab. The design by Danish sportswear brand Hummel isn’t compulsory but it means women who would normally wear a headscarf to cover their hair now have a more practical option for playing football. There’s also a base layer and leggings, allowing players to be covered from head to toe, if their faith requires it. Shabnam Mabarz, 20, is one player of Afghanistan’s national football team who has tried the hijab kit. Mabarz and her team-mates will be the first to wear a new hijab that is connected to the base layer under their national team shirt. Khalida Popal, the team’s former captain, said: “This jersey is the Afghani team uniform and I am proud to be a role model for thousands of young girls and women back home in Afghanistan. “It is very special to me. It is our identity.”
Playing football in Afghanistan can be dangerous for women, so many members of the national team live in Europe. “Football was not easy for us to play, especially in a male-dominated country,” Popal said. “It was not acceptable for women to play. Football is a man’s game.” When women are allowed to play in Afghanistan, they are usually required to wear a headscarf. But that often proves tricky, with the cloth sometimes falling over the player’s eyes. Hummel CEO Christian Stadil said: “So we thought of this solution, the sports hijab that is part of the whole package we made for the Afghan Football Federation. We wanted to make one that is cool and fashionable.” Stadil, who previously sponsored the exiled Tibet team, said the brand is in talks with other Middle Eastern countries to provide a similar outfit. “Our core value is to change the world through sports,” he said.