Women’s football tackling big issues in India

  • Fifty days to go until the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 kicks off

  • Women’s football festival held in Goa between 5 and 13 August

  • The motto of the event was 'Our Bodies, Our Rights, Our Game'

In exactly 50 days time, the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 kicks off in New Delhi. As this is the first time a FIFA tournament will be held in India, it is no surprise that the event has been a hot topic among local media for several months. Yet youth football is not the only part of the beautiful game hoping for a boost in the world’s second most populous city.

The facts •       The venue for Group C of the U-17 World Cup – featuring Germany, Iran, Guinea and Costa Rica – Goa played host to the women’s football festival 'Our Bodies, Our Rights, Our Game' between 5 and 13 August.

•       In organising the event, DISCOVER FOOTBALL, Foot and Ball, and Tibet Women's Soccer sought to raise the profile of women and girls playing football in India and offer them a platform to share their experiences and learn from each other.

•       In addition to a women’s football tournament contested by eight Indian teams, the festival also included a girls’ football camp, an international coaching programme and a workshop.

•       Eight international coaches, each working alongside an Indian coach, supported the teams as they progressed through the tournament.

The local situation Women’s football in India is still very much a minority sport and is often subject to prejudice. Thanks to the country’s remarkable religious diversity, the event in Goa brought together more than 100 women from diverse religious backgrounds, including Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs.

The words "As the name of the event shows, we are making a connection between football and the struggle for equality and women’s rights. It gives us a chance to meet players and share ideas about how they can achieve greater freedom through football." Esther Franke of DISCOVER FOOTBALL

"We have taken teams from different parts of India and mixed them up to create new teams. This gave everyone the opportunity to experience fair play and play football in a safe environment. Many of these women only get the chance to play against another team once or twice a year. The festival offers exactly this – a platform to interact through football and address gender and women’s rights issues in India." Lea Goelnitz, local project director in Goa

"This festival is different from any other. There is a sense that we can really make an impact here. It also gives participants a chance to learn a lot about themselves." Lebogang Tlhako, coach of the victorious Purple Team, who works with several clubs in her home city of Johannesburg

"It was a fantastic week. Football has made everything right." Former India international Jyoti Burett

"It’s extremely encouraging to be working and exchanging ideas with other teams who do similar work to us. Having the opportunity to learn and get moral support from each other means a lot to the players." Cassie Childers Ryle of Tibet Women‘s Soccer, which gives Tibetan women exiled in India the chance to play football together