“Once, there were obstacles for girls to play football,” explains Head Mistress Sheel of a primary school in remote Bangladesh. “Girls were not easily accepted [on the field], and discouraged by their guardians and society. But now it is different.”
The girl’s school team – who were Champions at the divisional-level football tournament in their area – has boosted the popularity of the sport amongst girls in the community.
“Girls are inspired to play as our girls school team is attaining fame through their success,” says Head Mistress Sheel.
The girls team practices weekly at their school grounds improving their skills and teamwork. They are particularly good at checking the opposition.
“Our dream is to get place in the national football team,” they say.
The players, who are all from remote villages, are well acquainted with international football and are avid followers of the world game.
“I love superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s play. He is my favourite,” says Kolpona (right, back row).
While Ruma (left, back row) is much fond of Lionel Messi, her teammate Lioni (middle, back row) says “Diego Maradona is the best among all. I wish I were able to play like him.
The team enjoys the excitement of and is inspired by the World Cup tournaments to “improve our tactics and skills”.
“My dream is to see [the girls] playing in the women’s national football team. Two players got opportunity to play in Sri Lanka in 2013. We are proud,” says Head Mistress Sheel.
In their community participation in football is inspiring girls to dream of their future. Many girls are now thinking to play football as professionals inspired by the girl’s school team’s success.
Football and the girl’s school team also represent important messages in gender equality and adolescent health. Head Mistress Sheel says, “[In football] every child will enjoy equal opportunity. There would no disparity.”
With malnutrition affecting some 200 million children throughout the Asian region and an obesity rate on the rise amongst youth and adolescents, encouragement of a healthy and active lifestyle through participation in sport is more important than ever.
One Goal is co-host of the Girl Power and Play symposium, June 18-19 in Ottawa, highlighting the importance of girls’ involvement in sport. One Goal projects seek to increase children's grassroots football participation and promote nutrition education. For more information and to give to a One Goal project, visit www.onegoal.org/give