Yuvasamithi, a group of youngsters working for socially relevant campaigns like gender equality, education, etc., under the leadership of Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP), is organising a Gender-Neutral Football League as part of its SCRIBES science-cultural fest, which brings together youth from all over the State and includes discussions, film screenings, and performances.
The flag-off for the league-level tournament, the first of its kind, was at the Government High School Grounds at Pilicode in Kasaragod district on January 15, where teams comprising men, women and transgenders played against each other, upholding the true sportsman spirit.
The main motive behind organising a football tournament of this kind, according to Pradeep, chairman of Yuvasamithi and KSSP Kasaragod president, is to break the taboo that games like football are only for males. He feels there could be no better platform to kickstart the gender neutrality campaign.
“Football is one of the favourite and widely-played of games in Kerala. However, apart from males, no other genders are made a part of it irrespective of the fact that they might be interested or have the talent to play football well. This is the reason why we thought we could start with football,” he said.
He added that this is also a crucial step in empowering transgenders who have to face negligence and mental torture from society. This is the first time they are being given a chance to portray their skills in sports, as well as mingle with others without any inhibitions or restrictions.
Each team for the tournament consists of five players – two male, two females and one transgender player. The female player would replace the absence of the transgender player, if at all they are not able to play a match. In the first match, five teams fought with each other and the winners were given prizes in a public function attended by activists and local community leaders and people’s representatives.
Mr. Pradeep is of the opinion that playgrounds should be the places where gender neutrality should be propagated with immediate effect and if started at the school level itself then children get the message that every gender should be respected and treated equally.
“Organising a gender-neutral football league alone will not address this problem and that it is very important for society to understand that no person should be discriminated against on gender basis because apart from being born to a gender, everyone has their own preferences as well. And it is not a matter to be made fun of,” he says.
Esha Kishore, a well-known transgender activist and dancer, also participated in the tournament and took to her Facebook page to express her happiness for the opportunity Yuvasamithi had provided her by inviting her to play in the league match. In the post, Esha says that playing football for the first time in her life was indeed a good experience and that she is looking forward to many such matches in the future.
Other district-level matches are scheduled for February and the final round will also be played in the same month at Malappuram.