In celebration of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8, the Afghan Football Federation and Danish sportswear brand hummel have presented the Afghanistan 2016 home and away kits. They are the first football shirts ever to incorporate a hijab.
According to hummel: Playing soccer has been a struggle for girls and women in Afghanistan, but hummel, Danish soccer apparel and footwear brand, has taken steps to make it easier by designing an innovative new women’s kit. The new uniform kit includes the first ever integrated hijab, which will not only aid the performance of Afghanistan’s female soccer players, but also allow them, against all odds, to compete on an equal footing with international sides from across the world.
The courage shown by Afghanistan’s female soccer players represents a potent symbol of hope for women across the world and illustrates their strength and determination to battle against overwhelming odds. It also shows soccer’s enduring ability to empower and unite – two qualities that form an integral part of hummel’s ongoing mission to change the world through sport.
Consulting on the development of the shirt is former national women’s team captain, Khalida Popal, who is one of the most influential women of her generation in Afghanistan.
She made over 20 appearances for the national team before leaving Afghanistan to ensure her continued safety. Working as a consultant for hummel and the Afghanistan Football Federation, Popal knows better than anyone the pride attached with wearing this new ground-breaking kit.
“For a country like Afghanistan, wearing the national uniform, is a kind of power, a tool to give self-confidence for a woman,” said Popal. “That makes you feel powerful.
“Football gave me an identity…I’m the person football made me. It hurts when I’m not in my country. But I’m happy, I’m still doing my job, and I didn’t give up. And that’s important. Nobody should give up on their dreams. If they feel inside what they are doing is right, just go for it and never give up.”
Said company owner Christian Stadil, “At hummel we firmly believe that if you want to create positive change, you have to meet people, as well as nations and cultures, where they are. So if we want to create positive change for women in Afghanistan, we have to meet them where they are. Many of these women have to or want to wear a hijab, and that’s why we have chosen to make a very cool and very fashionable sports hijab for these great women of Afghanistan.”
hummel is clearly no stranger to kit design – but creating a unique shirt design for Afghanistan’s national teams was about far more than football.
In keeping with the Danish sports brand’s proud reputation for innovation, hummel has risen to the challenge to craft a shirt that not only optimizes performance but also symbolises Afghanistan’s rich history and tradition – with a modern twist.
“From the outset it was clear that the shirt was enormously significant,” says hummel designer Paul Fitzgerald. “I asked Khalida to think of something that inspires her about Afghanistan and she told me about the Afghan mountains – that was really my starting point.
“The very fabric of Afghanistan’s history is carved into those mountains.”
Further research revealed a school in Kabul from which the city’s master craftsman taught age-old skills such as calligraphy, jewelry making and wood carving, all of which ultimately played a key role in the finished article.
“It was amazing because it showed us how we could design the Afghan motif in the form of this Lion which really represented the courage the Afghan women’s team had in terms of performing on the pitch,” says Fitzgerald.
The style of those strokes formed the entire design, while the style of the sleeve and the hem were based on the country’s traditional dress.
Inspiration for the pattern on the integrated hijab – a unique feature of the Afghanistan women’s kit – meanwhile, was borrowed from the country’s traditional shoe makers, with similarly traditional decorative designs woven into the fabric.
The result is a stunning shirt which assists performance and represents a powerful symbol of equality and pride.
“It’s a design hummel is extremely proud of,” says Fitzgerald.