In the last few years, there has been an exponential growth in interest in football among girls and women in rural India. As a consequence, different projects are emerging that aim to increase opportunities for their sporting development, as well as to promote possible future employment options in the football industry, given the increase in the number of leagues that have been created in recent years.
One of these projects is the residential academy for girls who participate in the activities organised by the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, through the Rural Development Trust (RDT), and La Liga, via its Women’s Football department and its Foundation. The academy recently completed its first course, with a total of 20 girls under the age of 15 from rural communities in Anantapur receiving a one-year financial and training scholarship to live and train at the Anantapur Sports Village (ASV) facilities.
The residential academy provides them with the opportunity to improve their skills and contribute to their personal development, as well as giving the girls the opportunity to pursue their dream of playing football at a higher level, and to have the possibility of continuing their career in the sport. Thanks to this project, the girls involved have the option of training in high quality sports facilities, with good nutrition and proper educational follow-up, which is inaccessible to the majority of the population in such regions.
As a result of this initiative, they have all been enrolled in formal schools and have received classes in social skills, computer skills, health care, as well as being given sports equipment and training sessions. The academy also provides an educational development plan for the most talented participants from this area of India to help them pursue a career in football, honing their skills under the tutelage of qualified coaches who oversee and coordinate the project.
After the first course, one of the main impacts of the residential academy is that more and more girls want to become involved in football, as they see that there are increasing opportunities in the game. There has also been a perceived paradigm shift in the mindset of parents as they begin to encourage girls to play football in rural community clubs as they see that it can help their academic and then professional development. For the director of the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), Sai Krishna, “the most difficult challenge has been getting girls involved in sporting activities. In Anantapur, none of them played sport. Currently, 45% of the participants in all our projects are girls. A paradigm and mentality shift is taking place that is necessary to move the culture towards tolerance and equality”.
The program achieved great results at the end of its first course. Girls are more confident about pursuing a career in football, while the visibility of women in the public sphere is applauded. From an educational point of view, 90% of the girls have passed their final exams, 75% attendance in regular classes has been achieved and 90% have attended computer classes. In addition, five reading clubs have been set up within the context of the project.
Olga de la Fuente, director of the La Liga FOUNDATION, states that “It is impressive to see how, in just one year, the academic performance and educational skills of girls in this region have improved. We are confident that through football and formal education, great strides will be made in improving the quality of life of these girls in the future”.
“At La Liga and the La Liga FOUNDATION we will continue to support initiatives that promote gender equality and that are committed to developing skills for the football industry”, added Pedro Malabia, director of the Women’s Football Department at La Liga.