Iraqi girls living soccer dream in Winnipeg at FIFA Women’s World Cup

Nothing could stop Nazdar and Zainab Hilo from playing soccer, not even the risk of being kidnapped by ISIS terrorists back home in Iraq.

The sisters were not allowed to play the beautiful game because it was too dangerous for women.

“They can’t do anything to a man, but as a woman if they take them, they do stuff to them, bad things,” said 18-year-old Nazdar who fell in love with soccer as a 10-year old when she saw boys playing close to her house.

She convinced her sister to sneak out with her and play soccer with other girls in the area.

“I used to always say I wished I was a man, to play soccer,” said 16-year-old Zainab, who remembers the fear of hiding every time a man passed by.

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Their parents feared that if men saw them playing soccer they would be shamed and raped, so they banned their daughters from playing.

“When we saw someone was coming, we would hide until they passed, until it was safe to play again,” said Nazdar.

“It was because of the ISIS terrorists … if we’re playing they might take us.”

The family moved to Canada as refugees in 2010 and both girls now play on the St. John’s High School soccer team in Winnipeg. Nazdar is the team’s captain.

The two sisters will be flag bearers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the city they now call home. They will hold the FIFA flag before the games on June 12 and 15 at Investors Group Field.

Nazdar said one day she hopes she is not just the flag bearer at the World Cup, but rather, an athlete playing on the field with her sister.

“And that my parents will be sitting in the same spot, and watching us,” said Nazdar.

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