When Naomi Girma started her professional football career, she set records and made headlines straight away.
Born in California to Ethiopian parents, she was the number one overall 2022 NWSL Draft, and in her debut season not only won Rookie of the Year but also Defender of the Year - becoming the first in league history to do so.
At just 23, Naomi started for the US women's national team at the 2023 Women's World Cup and controlled the back line with composure. Her achievements on the pitch are enough to put her on lists with some of football's greats but her activism off it sets her apart.
Together with 10 other players and a coach, she pledged 1% to Football For Her to help create equal opportunities for the next generation and advance gender equity. The coalition crossed club, league, and national team lines to help ensure the 2023 Women's World Cup created a historic social legacy.
"We're calling everyone to join us and Common Goal in creating intersectional, ground-breaking solutions to challenges our communities are facing - from female empowerment, racial justice, climate action, and mental health to refugee integration and LGBTQ+ inclusion," said Naomi. "It’s our time to use our voices and take action together.”
But her 2023 World Cup legacy did not stop there. In honour of her late friend and Stanford teammate Katie Meyer, Naomi led a mental health initiative with her US teammates ahead of the tournament. The campaign aimed to break stigmas, offer tangible solutions, and help prioritise mental health.
“It’s exactly what Katie would have done. But she never would have stopped there,” wrote Naomi in a first-person piece for The Players’ Tribune.
“We don’t want this to end simply at awareness. We want to make sure that young people have the tools to cope with depression, anxiety, stress, and the very bad days, when it feels like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, and it can never get better.”
“It can always get better.”