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Naomi Girma: First Player of Ethiopian Descent to Play for the US Women’s National Team

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American-born Ethiopian footballer Naomi Girma is one of the upcoming players in the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT). She rose to fame at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia & New Zealand. In the absence of experienced defender Becky Sauerbrunn, she showed why she’s ready to step in after Sauerbrunn leaves. Let’s learn more about Naomi Girma.

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Naomi Girma’s Early Life

Naomi Girma was born on 14 June 2000 in San Jose, California. Her Ethiopian parents immigrated to the United States to give their children a better life. 

Naomi studied at Hacienda Elementary School and then attended basketball matches with her brother at the YMCA after school. Girma graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Symbolic Systems from Standford University.

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The Start of Her Football Career

She also played soccer for Maleda Soccer Club, an Ethiopian community-based club around her home. Speaking to CNN, Girma said that this was done to build a community and have fun more than to advance people’s development in the game.

“It was a way for my parent’s generation and my generation to get together and have a community. There wasn’t any advancement within the club. It was about showing up every day, having fun, playing soccer and getting better.” Girma said.

In 2010, an invitation to soccer practice by her friend led Girma to join the Central Valley Crossfire, where she played until 2017. During this period, she participated in the U.S. Olympic Development Program, where the U.S. national team scouted her. She told Goal.com more about this.

“During that first camp, they showed me the system – the Under 14s, U17s, U20s and U23. This was really big for me. I realized that there was a pathway I could follow like many other players who’ve done it before. You also realize that many won’t make it to the senior team so then work started from there,” Girma said.

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College Career

Naomi Girma represented several clubs while in college. She played for her University football team, Stanford Cardinal. She missed the 2021 season with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. In 2022, Girma foregoed the rest of her collegiate career and declared her draft for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

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Professional Career

Naomi Girma was drafted by San Diego Waves FC. She hit the ground running with a couple of accolades:

  • NWSL Rookie of the Month
  • NWSL Best XI of the Month

After her first season, Naomi Girma was named: 

  • NWSL Rookie of the Year
  • NWSL Defender of the Year

She’s played 32 games for the team she’s now contracted to until 2026.

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International Career

Naomi Girma came through the junior ranks. She played for the U17s, U19s and U20s teams. She was part of the under-20 team that won the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. In 2022, Girma was named the U.S. Young Female Player of the Year.

After her success at the junior levels, Girma received her first call-up for the senior team in 2019. However, she couldn’t join the team in camp due to injury. 

Her debut for the team came in 2022 in a friendly game. She was part of the United States National Team in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. So far, Naomi Girma has 20 caps.

Girma has certainly made her mark in the game. If she keeps her form going, she might scale the heights of defenders like Crystal Dunn and Becky Sauerbrunn.

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