In December 2015, Rural Development Trust’s (RDT) Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) kicked off the first ever Anantapur Football League (AFL) for girls. Although the Girls AFL came to an end in the first week of February 2016, the initiative has given girls and young women in Anantapur a definitive and bright future in football in India.
In the group stages, each team had to play six games, with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the knock-out round to be played at ASA’s Anantapur Sports Village (ASV). The knock-out stage was scheduled in such a way, that the matches ended well before the athletes needed to prepare for their end-of-year exams. This meant that the players, their parents, coaches, and team managers could focus enough attention on the sport, without having to constantly worry about exam woes.
Eleven teams from all the districts of Anantapur played in this first ever league for U18 girls. The teams were split into two groups based on their geographical location – North and South. Teams from Bathalapalli, Gooty, Beluguppa, Hindupur, Penukonda, Uravakonda, D. Honnur, Lepakshi, Parigi, Atmakur and Kalyandurg participated.
Moving to the knock-outs were the teams from Atmakur, Lepakshi, Parigi South and Kalyandurg. In the first semi-final between Kalyandurg and Lepakshi, the latter succumbed to a thumping 13-0 scoreline. The second semi-final was between Parigi South and Atmakur. ASA’s Atmakur Development Centre team got off to a slow start before dominating proceedings and fashioning a comprehensive 5-0 win.
In the final match of the league, Kalyandurg quickly took the lead, scoring in the fifth minute. They played a fairly defensive game after that, and held on to their one-goal advantage over Atmakur, with the full-time score reading 1-0.
Empowerment for Women Beyond the Pitch
This initiative by ASA to conduct a Girls AFL has definitely done a lot of good for women in the area. For starters, the decision taken that at least one woman was required to be a part of the management team ensured more participation of women in the managerial aspect of the sport. The campaign had more women looking to get involved, and although some women were still quite conservative, they came out to matches and supported their daughters, even if they could not directly be involved in the league. Another positive outcome of the league is that the senior girls in the team made an extra effort to mentor and assist the youngsters. Some girls, who were over the age of 18, got involved in the league by taking up coaching roles.
While ASA has done a lot of good work in the past, this league was a real game changer for women in the area. A true success story is of the winning team, Kalyandurg. The team was managed and coached entirely by women. The manager of the team was G. Radhamma, a P.E. teacher by profession, while Anjali, a first year BA student and national level football player, took to officiating during the group stage games of the league, while also dedicating some of her time to coaching and mentoring her team.
Congratulations to the Kalyandurg team on winning the inaugural Girls AFL. We’re thrilled to see ASA pay attention to grassroots football in the area, and ensure that both boys and girls can benefit from the sport.
Contributed by Maxon Sequiera