Football: The Fuel that Broke Stereotypes
This blog post was contributed by our Student Leader Anjali
My one true love is football. This game changed my life in a way I cannot just pen down in a few words or pages. My journey began in 5th standard when my school’s only boys football team won the Just For Kicks (JFK) Pune Championship. Their game and victories sparked inspiration in me to play football.
I knew that football is a team game, so my first step was to get a team ready! Seeing the way the girls in my class were resisting and avoiding even the mention of football, I knew getting that team ready was nearly impossible.
I was persistent in convincing and hoped at least someone would stand up in my support because the more I pushed the more they retracted. I felt demotivated but my passion for the sport only kept growing. I really wanted to play, so when 7th standard started, I thought of all the possibilities that were stopping these girls from playing. I knew they liked the game and really wanted to play. It was very evident in their eyes but there was something holding them back. I had to find out! After constantly trying, I realized that it was their parents who were putting those limitations and restrictions on them.
Coming from a Muslim community where girls wearing t-shirts is considered a taboo; letting them play football in shorts was unimaginable. On top of that, football has always been looked upon as a boy’s game and that just made my fight tougher. I knew that I couldn’t just keep quiet and had to do something about it.
Convincing the parents was really a difficult task, as they were not going to understand the love, the passion and the dedication we felt for the game. That’s when I reached out to a TFI Fellow in our school who didn’t hesitate to support me. We together somehow managed to persuade the parents to let their daughters play. They finally agreed but on the condition that the girls would continue to wear their hijabs even on the field.
Gradually as more girls started to join in with full support from their parents, our team was finally formed. I was so proud of the fact that the team was for real and it did not matter that the girls were playing with hijabs. What mattered was the fact that they were playing and fueling their dreams.
In 2016-2017, our U – 14 girls team won the JFK’s Pune Championship. We had managed to make it to the place that was once dominated by the boys. Now when I see parents supporting the girls while they play, the feeling of pride is inexpressible.
But my journey didn’t end here! I applied for the post of JFK’s coach after seeing the projects that my friends at KER were running to make the world a better place. I wanted to share my knowledge and skills with all those who were passionate about football and dared to dream big.
I recently got selected as a JFK’s Coach and will soon start my training to help many students like me, achieve their dreams. I believe that if you really love something are willing to work hard towards it, no matter how difficult and tough it gets, it is possible.