The 12th woman changing the landscape in India

7 Mar 2021
  • We feature five women in India who are vocal supporters of various fan groups

  • All five are greatly anticipating the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India 2022™

  • Celebrate International Women's Day 2021 with us with these stories

What is football without fans? One of the things 2020 has taught us, football-wise, is that fans will always be one of the most integral parts of the game.

The beautiful game is for everyone. Ahead of International Women’s Day 2021, we bring to you the stories of five women in India, who have been vocal supporters of various fan groups. They have managed to engrave their own unique identity in a space historically dominated more by men. The year 2022 will be particularly special for them. In 2017, they cheered for the boys when they took the world stage; this time around, it’s the women they will be rooting for at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™. As the girls take centre stage on the pitch, another set of girls will lead the charge from the stands.

Preksha Choradia works for a multinational company in the financial capital of India, Mumbai. Despite her seriously hectic working hours, Preksha is often seen in the stands whenever there’s a game of the national team in Mumbai. She is also an active member of the West Coast Brigade, the official supporters group of Mumbai City FC, the Indian Super League (ISL) team from Mumbai. December 2019 was a special moment for her when the India U-17 team played a Tri-nation series in Mumbai. Preksha was in the stands cheering her lungs out for the national team and now she can’t wait for the World Cup next year to do the same again.

Jennifer Coutinho has had her life revolve around football. She met her husband through football and got married into a football crazy family that featured popular names in the city’s football circuit. A striker by trade, she has played for as long as she can remember and won multiple local tournaments. This didn’t even stop after the birth of her son. Having followed the Indian women’s national team from up close, she believes a golden time for Indian women’s football is around the corner.

Eighteen-year-old Payal Gupta is from the suburbs of Mumbai and an avid football follower. She plays as a goalkeeper. Payal is a member of the Blue Pilgrims, India’s most vocal supporters group and since the time she joined them, she has been figuring out ways to promote women’s football in India. Payal has organised multiple tournaments for girls and works towards mobilising support for the game. She is looking forward to 2022 and is determined to do everything she can to promote the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022™.

The mother-daughter duo of Shobha and Varsha Rajasekhar are one of the most famous names in the Indian football circuit. The two are vocal supporters of Bengaluru FC and have proudly attended more matches than the other half of their family: Varsha’s brother and her father.

MUMBAI, INDIA - OCTOBER 18: Fans enter the stadium ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 Round of 16 match between Ghana and Niger at Dr DY Patil Cricket Stadium on October 18, 2017 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Jan Kruger - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Shoba Rajasekhar has seen how vocal her daughter is for the game, and believes that more and more mothers should come out with their daughters to watch matches in stadiums. A painter by hobby and passion, Varsha’s artworks have been famous not just in the Indian football arena, but her portrait of Sir Alex Ferguson also reached the former Manchester United manager. And now both mother and daughter duo are waiting for the World Cup to begin in India next year.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we acknowledge these cheerleaders, who are an invaluable part of the beautiful game.

This article is part of our series focused on women’s football, and women in football, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021. To find out more about FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy and Development Programmes, and to read more articles like this, click here.