India’s footballing future is for all

The FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 may bring some of the best talented young players from around the world together in a preview of the future of the men’s game, but organisers in the host country want to make sure girls and women play a part in the tournament’s legacy too.

Mission XI Million is tasked with ensuring all youngsters, boys and girls, play a part in the future of Indian football. The project is a school contact programme, which aims to get 11 million children enjoying the beautiful game, with the objective of making football the sport of choice in India.

Marion Mayer-Vorfelder, FIFA’s delegation lead for India 2017, recently headed up a week-long inspection tour, taking a closer look at the preparations at the six venues with less than 200 days until kick-off. Part of the visit included a trip for Mayer-Vorfelder to the Dnyanpushpa Vidyaniketan school and the DY Patil Junior College in Navi Mumbai to meet the students already touched by Mission XI Million.

India 2017 and football in general were discussed by Ms Mayer-Vorfelder and the students, with topics ranging from the future of the sport in India to the excitement that a FIFA tournament can bring to a nation.

In today’s world, girls are as progressive in every field and football is no exception.

“It was a wonderful experience to meet these girls and boys - they were all so enthused about football,” Mayer-Vorfelder said. “Many of them were wearing jerseys of popular teams, and that just showed how keenly they follow the game. That's precisely what we want to achieve through the tournament- excite kids because they are the next generation who will drive the sport forward in India.

“I mentioned how I first came across Lionel Messi during the U-20 World Cup in Holland back in 2005 - that's the opportunity they will have in less than 200 days’ time. Stars of tomorrow will be playing in their backyard.”

Despite the school being closed for the summer break in the country, students attended for the visit to share their excitement about the upcoming tournament.

“In today’s world, girls are as progressive in every field and football is no exception,” Mrs Shivani V Patil a trustee of the D Y Patil Group said. “We are proud and inspired at D Y Patil Group to give our girl students a vision to take football as an active sport in future.”

The inclusion of girls and women as part of India 2017’s legacy is just another step on the #FIFA4Equality road, which was punctuated by the Equality and Inclusion conference held in Zurich earlier this month. Hopefully, with India’s Mission XI Million plan, both genders will play a part in the country’s footballing future.

“I just found the enthusiasm and passion about football great,” Mayer-Vorfelder concluded. “It's really nice to bring about change which isn't restricted to the playing field.”

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