Tuesday 04 October 2022, 09:00

India prepares to ‘Kick off the Dream’

  • The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™ is a celebration of the vibrant spirit of youth

  • A unique opportunity to promote the women’s game and inspire girls of all ages across the world

  • The tournament aspires to leave a positive legacy of increased participation in India

Resilience. Empowerment. Kindness. Ibha™, the Mascot for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™, symbolises so much more than just child-like fun. These ideals are the philosophy the tournament will hope to manifest as the tournament kicks off one week from today. An entertaining month of women’s football, from whose seeds, a significant growth can flower.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™ will be held between 11 to 30 October 2022 in Bhubaneswar, Goa, and Navi Mumbai. This showcase event not only provides elite players at youth level a platform to shine and compete. It will also portray an important visual message; football is for all. “The tournament is there as a catalyst to help start certain activities, but the idea is for us to continue them because they are needed in different states and in different communities,” said Arijana Demirovic, Head of FIFA Women’s Football Development on her recent visit to India. “The idea is to ensure those girls that have been participating in different activities have somewhere to go back to, have more sustainable programmes, and that we keep track of what is going on, and hopefully, in the future, see participation continue to grow.”

The tournament’s slogan – Kick off The Dream™ – is applicable not just to those pulling on their boots and proudly sporting the colours of their country but also captures the essence of what these October weeks are all about. This is a unique chance to inspire and empower girls of all ages in India and around the world. For those who wish to break barriers, the tournament also aims to increase the future commercial viability of girls and women’s football in India, as well as greater participation and employment opportunities, all via a holistic and integrated approach.

While upgrading infrastructure has been a core focal point, special emphasis has also been placed on pushing the changes required to alter the landscape of women’s football in the country. International Women’s Day 2020 saw the launch of the Coach Education Scholarship Programme - one of FIFA's eight women's football development programmes - in order to facilitate greater representation of women in leadership roles.

So far, nearly 350 women have graduated from the multiple editions of the course through both levels, the E-Licence and D-Licence, held across Mumbai, Pune, Navi Mumbai, Kolhapur, Odisha, Goa, Meghalaya, Punjab, and Delhi. With further editions of this initiative in the pipeline, the number of graduates is expected to touch 500. A Referee Education Programme is also being conducted, featuring an all-women group of participants.

Football’s ability to instigate positive social change is fundamental to the ideals of the tournament. To encourage gender-inclusive participation, a special celebratory event called ‘Kick Off The Dream Football Carnival’ was conceptualized. The main goal of the carnival is to encourage children to break gender stereotypes by normalising inclusive participation through football-themed games and activities.

“It’s just really emotional and personally, very inspiring to see so many of these kids enjoying football – some of them for the first time – playing in different tournaments, small-sided games, winning different prizes, sharing their experiences, teaching us a bit about the culture, asking us all these questions about football and women’s football in particular,” smiled Demirovic. In short, this tournament is about so much more than football. For those who head along to watch a game between 11-30 October, they will not only be cheering from the side lines, but equally playing an active part in pushing for an equal tomorrow.