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AFC Grassroots Festival: changing the football landscape in rural India

Author: Anantapur Sports Academy

AFC Grassroots Festival: changing the football landscape in rural India

A wave of celebration swept across the Anantapur District on 15 May, with every community engaging in their localities to promote football through the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Grassroots Football Festival.

15 May is a day of celebration every year, here at Anantapur. Children and adults gather from every nook and corner to celebrate the AFC Grassroots Festival. This year, 714 children (about 40% girls), all under 13 years of age from Anantapur Sports Academy’s 25 grassroots centres gathered in their communities to celebrate the football festival. The festival was held at Kalyandurg, Konakondla, Kothacheruvu, and Lepakshi in the Anantapur District, India.

Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) has been promoting football in the rural Anantapur for over a decade through its 25 football grassroots centres spread across the district. ASA believes that grassroots football gives children an opportunity to learn and develop by using it as a tool for social inclusion and participation. Since April 2018, the ASA Football programme has been in partnership with La Liga Foundation and La Liga Women’s Department to promote gender equality through grassroots football in rural India. The partnership has engaged 2,143 children (737 girls and 1,406 boys) and seen a 295% increase in girls participation in football in Anantapur District.  

The grassroots football project has provided a stage for young talents in the rural Anantapur for a decade and more, helping them to express themselves while teaching them the sporting values such as equality, fair play, teamwork, and respect.

ASA started to celebrate the AFC Grassroots Festival in 2016, initially celebrated at one venue: Anantapur Sports Village (ASV). In order to engage communities, since 2018, the festival has been held in various villages across the district to engage adults in the villages to come together irrespective of their caste, religion, or gender, with a sense of community and cooperation to appreciate the game.

Initially we used to organise the AFC Grassroots Football Festival at Anantapur Sports Village (ASV), children from across the district used to gather at ASV. With La Liga Foundation joining our efforts, we wanted to engage parents, community coaches and various stakeholders in communities to come together, so we decided to mobilise support in rural villages. This has proven to be a great step ahead in community engagement. At the same time, we are educating community leaders on the importance of gender equality and building the capacities by helping them learn organising skills which they can use for the development of their communities” said Dada Khalander, Football Coordinator at ASA.

Events like the Grassroots Festival are a great tool for mass mobilisation and engagement, and these events don’t just engage participating children, but also attract non-participating children, and encourage them to take up the sport. Talking about this Ramanjineyulu, a physical education teacher as well as a volunteer football coach said, “These events attract children who don't play the sport, and the fun games we organise educates parents and villagers that football is not just a ball and 11 players on each side, it is fun too.”


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Friday, May 17, 2019 - 07:08