LaLiga, a global, innovative and socially responsible organisation, has launched its first residential women's football academy in India in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.
Considering the significant growth of women's sport in rural areas in India, LaLiga through its women's football department and its foundation along with Vicente Ferrer Foundation, through the Rural Development Trust (RDT), has introduced this academy for girls to practise their favourite activity at a higher level and to develop their skills.
Twenty girls under the age of 15 years, all from Anantapur’s rural communities, have been selected for the programme. They will receive financial and educational sponsorship for one year to reside and train at the Anantapur Sports Village (ASV) facilities. The players selected will also be registered in regular schools and will receive classes to build social skills as well as computer literacy. During their stay in the residential programme, they will also be provided with healthcare, and sports and training equipment, and will attend various sports tournaments and friendly matches.
In addition, the residential academy will provide a training development plan for talented girls from rural Anantapur to pursue a career in football, honing their skills under the tutelage of qualified coaches who will oversee and coordinate the project. This will be supported by the on-going improvement of sporting facilities in the region, thus preparing them for the future opportunities growing in Indian women's football.
"We firmly believe that when children are given equal opportunities, regardless of their gender and social class, each of them is capable of achieving things that help them grow. This same conviction, combined with the support of LaLiga and the LaLiga FOUNDATION, allowed the Rural Development Trust to gradually reach this stage of creating the first residential women's football programme," said Anna Ferrer, co-founder and president of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.
This new residential programme has been made possible through a long-standing and successful partnership between LaLiga, the Rural Development Trust and the Vicente Ferrer Foundation that dates back to the 2018-2019 season, when a non-residential programme for U13 and U15 girls and the network of local football clubs was initiated.
As part of the non-residential programme, selected girls were given the opportunity to attend camps to participate in regular football training, life skills development sessions and trips to competitions during the duration of the camp. So far, 1,816 children have accessed their 'basic right: to play', and there has been a 295% hike in girls' participation in football over the past three years.
Although interest in women's sports is growing across India at a slow but steady pace, female players often lack support and opportunities to train regularly, especially those from rural or vulnerable communities.
Anjali, 24, a coach for the recently-opened residential programme, has struggled to pursue her dream of a career in sport. "When I was little, my neighbours used to tell my parents that football was not suitable for girls. Luckily, they always supported me and believed in me. I want to encourage other girls like me to pursue their sporting dreams. I wouldn't be so confident if it wasn't for sport."
Anusha, 13, from Atmakur and also a football player in the recently launched programme added, "Many women before me, like my mother for example, never had the opportunity to play sports when they were younger. I want to make my parents proud and show the whole world that girls are just as strong and committed, and just as good footballers, as boys.”