Footballer Shamila Kohestani’s Success Story

Feb/26/2023 / by Swarnendu Biswas
Shamila Kohestani
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Dribbling to her Goal

Shamila Kohestani is a former footballer from Afghanistan who is also the former captain of Afghanistan’s women’s national football team. She was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1988. The age of Shamila Kohestani is 34 years.

Suffering Oppression

While exploring about Shamila Kohestani we can come to know thatshe grew up in Taliban’s oppressive rule where she was deprived of continuing her formal education during much of her childhood years.

Though Shamila’s family knew the serious repercussions on families who taught their daughters to read and write under the then Taliban rule (1996-2001), they displayed great courage in enabling Shamila to study secretly. She and her sisters attended secret underground schools in Kabul during the first phase of Taliban rule in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Kicking to Glory

Soon after Taliban’s removal from power in Afghanistan Shamila not only resumed school but was seen playing football. The depressing fact that football in Afghanistan is socially taboo for women to play didn’t stop her from finding her passion in the great game.

 Many people discouraged her pursuit in football but that only fueled her resolve to excel in the game further. Football gave her a sense of empowerment and probably football gave her the courage, identity and voice to fight for what she believed in. “Soccer gave me the freedom and courage to come out of my comfort zone,” observes Shamila Kohestani in her website.

In 2004, she travelled to the US for the first time along with seven other girls to attend a football clinic, with the objective to improve their football skills as part of the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange; a program founded by an Afghan American named Awista Ayub.

Shamila travelled to the US again in 2006 to participate in the Julie Foudy & ESPN Sports Leadership Academy in Hightstown, New Jersey and the exposure further enhanced her confidence in her potential.

Afghan Football Federation helped her to continue playing football. Any good biography of Shamila Kohestani should highlight that with the help of the Afghan Football Federation she established the first Afghan Women’s National Football Team in 2007. There is no prize for guessing that the then 19-year-old girl became the captain of Afghanistan’s women’s national football team.

Recognition and Education

In recognition of her accomplishments, Shamila Kohestani became the winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards ceremony. Her story has been published in world-renowned media platforms like New York Times, ESPN, and USA Today.

As far as her education goes, Shamila went on to attend Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, from where she graduated in 2012, with a degree in political science. Prior to that she did complete one year of high school from Blair Academy in New Jersey, in 2008. She continued football along with her higher studies and   played collegiate soccer at Drew University.

Now she has retired from playing football.

Spreading Message of Empowerment

However, like a true thought leader, Shamila is not content with her own empowerment only and aims to inspire and empower women in general. She thinks that sports can empower women, unite people from different backgrounds, and can give a fillip to gender equality.

Today she has also garnered global renown as a public speaker. She has extensively spoken at schools, universities, and sporting events where she shared her fascinating story of playing football in Afghanistan and of promoting gender equality. Her speeches are mainly focused on how football and other sports can be used to promote gender equality and develop confidence among young women through the world.


When did Shamila Kohestani start her career?

Her career as a footballer began in 2007.

How many matches did Shamila Kohestani play?

We do not have information on the exact number of matches played by her but we know that as a footballer Shamila Kohestani played for Afghanistan’s women’s national team for two years, mainly as a forward.

To whom is Shamila Kohestani married to?

The name of her husband is Kyle. She lives with him and her parents in Reseda, California. Her parents have emigrated from Afghanistan to the US a year ago.


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