St. Louis soccer star connects with Afghan refugee over love of country, sport

Laily Armghan, 25, is half a world away from her family, but found a second family in that of former professional soccer player Lori Chalupny.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:26 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - More than six months after fleeing Afghanistan in fear for her life, Laily Armghan, 25, is settling into her routine in South City.

Armghan often walks to and from her apartment for her overnight shift at a nearby factory. Upon arriving in St. Louis last year, she lived in a hotel for three months, courtesy of the International Institute of St. Louis.

“I was a target if I would have stayed in Afghanistan, my life was in danger,” Armghan said through a translator. “I would have gone through a lot of torture, luckily I could escape.”

Since 2011, Armghan said she was a member of the Afghan Women’s National Soccer Team, competing in various countries on behalf of Afghanistan. Last year, when the Taliban began its takeover of the country, she decided to flee, leaving her family and siblings behind.

“We had to spend four days and four nights at the airport in a very bad situation,” she said. “Obviously, we witnessed a lot of fights, killings.”

She was able to get on a flight to Qatar and eventually made it to the United States, resettling in St. Louis.

“It’s a beautiful city, I really like it here and would like to stay here,” she said.

Upon arriving, Armghan said she told people she enjoyed playing soccer and was eventually connected with former professional soccer player Lori (Chalupny) Lawson.

“When we first met, I didn’t know exactly where I would fit in,” she said. “I just knew we had this common bond that we had both represented our countries and had played soccer at the highest levels and wanted to meet her and see what needs there were and how I could help.”

Chalupny was part of Team USA’s 2008 gold medal win in the Beijing Olympics and won a bronze medal in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She is now the head women’s soccer coach at Maryville University.

“It’s incredible what sports do, to bring together people with different backgrounds and unite us,” she said.

Armghan now goes to soccer practice with Lawson, takes part in family events and enjoys spending time with the Lawson’s children.

“I’m very lucky that I met this family, I would say with the help of God, I was guided to them or they were guided to me,” she said.

A Go-Fund-Me has been set up to help Armghan get on her feet. To donate, click here.