The final match of the Subroto Cup Divisional Girls U-17 Football Tournament at St Francis D’Asisisi grounds in Borivli on Saturday ruffled quite a few feathers.
Girls from St Augustine School, Nerul and St Andrew’s College, Bandra, were forced to change into their sportswear in their respective school vans, in the absence of changing rooms at the venue. The Nerul school defeated their opponents 3-1, but what most participants took back from the match was anger over the apathy of the organisers -- the District Sports Office (DSO) -- towards the needs of female athletes.
Reetika Sahani, who scored all the three goals for St Augustine, felt that organisers should have arranged for basic facilities like washrooms and changing rooms. “Unlike boys, we cannot change our clothes in public. We changed in the school van. The DSO should at least have temporary facilities in place,” said the Std VIII student.
Her teammate, Ankita Shinde, admitted that her parents aren’t aware about the conditions in which they play football. “My family knows that I play football. But they do not have an idea of the pathetic conditions in which we play these tournaments. Once they know about it, they won’t let us play for the school. That’s something I don’t want to let happen.”
Summer Gonsalves, who equalised for St Andrew’s in the 27th minute, felt that girls do not get fair treatment in sports. “With cases of gang rape appearing in the news every day, our parents are concerned about us. If they come to know about the prevailing conditions at matches, God knows what they will do.”
St Augustine’s coach, Hemant Zende, said, “These girls are in their teens. Washrooms and changing rooms are a must, especially when tournaments have girls participating in them. Our team travelled for more than two hours to reach this venue. If we don’t get changing rooms, these girls go back home with those dirty clothes on. That’s not hygienic. But the organisers are not concerned about all that. For them, organising the tournament is more important than looking into such serious issues.”
As we cannot construct any structures on this ground, the question of making washrooms and changing rooms doesn’t arise. The DSO asked for the ground so we gave them the same. As far as providing makeshift arrangements is concerned, it’s the lookout of the DSO.
-- Br Anthony Kelko, sports director at St Francis D'Assisi
The main issue here is our mentality. We never treat women as equals. It’s taken for granted that they have to adjust to the given situations wherever they are — home or outside. No parent would want their daughter to play any sport where they do not have proper amenities. It's not just at school level, this is the scenario even when women play professional football.
-- Joshua Lewis, manager of Kenkre Football Academy’s women’s team
The Other Side
DSO sports officer Manoj Pandharam said, “I am aware that we should provide a separate washroom and changing rooms for girls. But we cannot do anything about this because the DSO has not been granting us any separate money to get proper grounds in which to conduct the tournaments. We face a lot of problems in getting a ground, forget getting washrooms or changing rooms.