A one of its kind of tournament in India will have 5,000 boys and girls from rural and urban government schools all over India competing in mixed-gender matches
Bengaluru, 22nd November, 2023: Enabling Leadership (EL) is all set to host a one-of-its-kind pan-India mixed-gender football competition as part of its EL-PLAY programme. With more than 500 mixed-gender teams playing across 9 regions and categories, and 5,000 participants, this will be the largest football event of its kind in the country so far.
The mixed-gender football competition not only imparts leadership skills to children but also promotes diversity and inclusivity. It nurtures responsible, self-reliant individuals who can positively impact their communities. Over the past 25 years, initiatives by UEFA have been instrumental in breaking down barriers for girls in football. This tournament further advances these efforts by fostering essential life skills and reshaping perspectives within communities.
With the support of the Empower Foundation, the event has evolved steadily over the last four years. What started with only mixed-gender practice sessions, evolved into over 300 matches over time. The 2022 tournament introduced mixed-gender games for the sub-junior category (9-10 years age). Taking it further, in the 2023-24 season, mixed-gender matches will be played at the Junior level (age 11-13 years) across all regions (about 500 matches in total).
Speaking about this, Ravi Sonnad, Founder & CEO, Enabling Leadership, said, “Through this mixed-gender tournament, we aim to empower girls while at the same time, change the boys’ perspectives and views. It is also a visually powerful way to demonstrate what equality and diversity means. Thai allows us to involve parents who then change their views about what their sons and daughters are capable of. By ensuring equitable opportunities and creating a nurturing space where both boys and girls understand and leverage each other’s strengths and play styles, we hope to change behaviours and foster a community that encourages young people to pursue their dreams irrespective of gender.”
Enabling Leadership has developed lesson plans, coach training, and teaching methodologies that incorporate gender mainstreaming into every session. Students are encouraged to challenge stereotypical perspectives and mindsets through the exercises in the sessions. For example, the notion that girls and boys can play equally well in every position on the field, and the idea that either of them can captain the team. Another powerful example is when the students are asked to lead a practice session or a drill, this is always done in pairs of one girl and one boy.
Talking about her experience of managing participants in the event, Sathvika, Teacher at Chennai’s Kanamapetta Government School, said, “I teach both the 6th and 8th standard batches, and the difference in their behaviour, especially in their interactions across genders, is noticeable. In the 6th standard, where students participate in mixed-gender games through the PLAY league, there’s a sense of comfort and ease. They seem more genuine and at ease, while interacting with each other, understanding the importance of gender parity while playing or in the classroom.”
The programme starts with the selection of a batch or “class” with a roughly equal number of girls and boys. The program year ends in the mixed-gender league and tournament where each team in every location plays six games, and then qualifies to a regional final with the winners then participating in a national championship at ELevate, which is Enabling Leadership’s culminating event for all three of its programmes.