Professional football player, Lili Iskandar, is only 19. Yes you read that right - a 19 year-old professional football player. Although only 19, the Lebanese attacking defender's story provides us insight into the behind the scenes of going pro: the grit, heartbreak and courage.
Despite being bullied, and people, including her family, doubting her capabilities, Lili’s story stands as a true testament to one of life's most hard but vital lessons: never give up.
Wandering eyes, this is Lili Iskandar’s story...
(Photos courtesy of Lili Iskandar)
When did you realize you were good at football?
Well, at first I didn’t think about “being good”. All I knew was that I was enjoying it. When I joined Salam Zgharta, people were shocked because I was a girl playing with boys. Being that good was the thing that made me realize that I am good.
What’s the football environment/culture like in Lebanon?
It was so tough for a girl to play football in that environment at that time. I had to go through a lot. I was bullied, even by some of my family (cousins). The hardest part was my father. He couldn’t accept the fact that I played, and with boys. It was his dream to one day play for the national team but he couldn’t because of injuries. I achieved his dream. He was very protective and sometimes he would try to force me to stop. I used to send him letters to convince him. My mother was always supporting me and because of her, I am here now.
Is the style of play in Denmark the same or different compared to Lebanon?
The style of play in Denmark is different from Lebanon in many ways, especially with HB Køge, the Elitedivisionen winning team. The system is so much faster than the one in Lebanon. The players are so good physically/tactically/technically. Here, decision making is fast, and there are a lot of possibilities and support for football.
You scored seven goals during the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) U18 Girls Championship back in 2019. That’s impressive! What was that tournament like? How did it feel to win the championship and also win the title, “Top Scorer”?
The seven goals were due to years of hard work and teamwork. It felt so good to win the championship and be the top scorer for the first time. It’s an achievement individually and collectively.
What are some goals or achievements that you wish to accomplish as a professional player?
Where I am now is just the beginning of my dream. I am proud of myself for what I’ve become but it’s not enough. I have a lot of things to do but what I am focusing on right now is getting used to the system in Europe and developing individually on and off the field.
If you could have any song play as you walk out onto the field before a big game, what song would it be?
It would be “Hall of fame” by The Script. I usually play the song before every game. I played it before the final game of WAFF. I will keep playing it because “the world's gonna know my name one day”, as he said in the song.
Outside of football, what do you like to do for fun?
The lifestyle here (in Denmark) is different from Lebanon, so I don’t do the same things I used to do in Lebanon. I read about psychology a lot because it's my major and it helps me on and off the field. I also hang out with my teammates and go to the gym everyday.
The motto for Horizon’s United Football Club is, “united we see. united we hear. united we are.”. Do you feel seen, heard and valued within the world of football?
I think it is your job to be seen, heard and valued (which is so hard) in the world of women's football especially in Lebanon and Arab countries. We lack a lot of support so you have to work so much harder than you think to be seen, otherwise you can just play the game for fun.
What are some issues that you want to see changed in football?
I would like equality (salary, support and social media) and of course for people to be more open to a girl playing football especially in the Middle East.
What does football mean to you?
Football is not just a game for me, football is a career. I am proving everyone who doubted me wrong even though I made it as I am here now. I am not done yet!