Kathmandu, May 9, 2017: It was 2014 when Amanda and Anne together thought of founding the WE United, a Facebook Group to bring together all the futsal fanatic girls in Kathmandu valley.
The WE United Project was started off with a mission to build the network of women athletes in Kathmandu and grow the space for women’s competitive sport. The group then started running Women’s Futsal games every Saturday since its inception in 2014. As the network of girls in futsal started to grow, and more and more girls were interested in playing futsal, they organized one-day tournaments on three different occasions.
The group recently hosted the Mahila Premier League (MPL), Kathmandu’s first women’s futsal league. Over the course of eight weeks, eight teams competed for the title of Kathmandu’s best women’s futsal team. Team Kumari had come out as Champions in the league that concluded on Saturday, May 6.
On the sidelines of the award ceremony, Glocal Khabar caught up with Jo Morrison, one of the core-organizing team member of MPL. Excerpts from the lively conversation with her:
How did you come up with the idea of hosting the MPL? What was your vision while starting the league?
Having started the group in 2014, we wanted to take it to a next level, and take the leap on our mission of improving women football in Nepal. We wanted to create opportunities for girls to play football. So, we partnered with the European Union with an idea of making a wider network of girl football players, and kicked-off the league on the International Women’s Day on March 8th.
How difficult was it to get eight teams for the tournament?
It was not that hard though. But, some players who came for the competition had never played futsal in their life prior to joining the league. The interesting part was, they were very much interested and keen. They played really well and improved in every next match.
What were some challenges that you considered while you thought of organizing the league? And, how was the experience like?
We were in doubt if we would be able to complete the whole 8 weeks of the tournament. Girls get into periods, and it’s still challenging thing for them to get out of the home every week. But, we were determined that we would do it anyhow.
The whole experience of conducting the league was amazing. It has been successful in a way more than what we expected.
How enthusiastic were the participants?
Everyone in the league was super excited. Maybe it was because it was their first time of playing the league.
How confident and how empowered do you see the participants at the end of the league?
Women empowerment is a process, not an end point. We are all working towards becoming more empowered. I think the league helped the process by creating positive images of women, giving a platform to them and supporting each other. I find it very positive. But, there is still a long way to go for women empowerment.
Having organized this match, what do you think you have achieved?
We have achieved a network of girls who now know each other, and want to continue playing competitive futsal. Also, everybody was inspired by Real Madrid. Everybody was like we want to be that good.
The girls in the community schools of remote areas are too willing to play sports. They are strong and can play football really good. But, they aren’t getting any resources and training opportunities. This league has given birth to numerous new good football players. So, these players will later provide football training to the girls in the rural community schools, ultimately helping take Nepali football to the next level.
You have just completed the Kathmandu edition of the league. What are your future plans? Are you also going outside of the valley?
Yeah, we’re just planning that. Futsal is nice sport as it’s easier to play on a small ground. For girls, it’s more difficult to play on a big ground. We are planning to take it to Butwal in near future. In our previous matches, we had also invited girls’ team from Parsa district. So, we are also planning to go there.
Our immediate next plan is to have another one-day tournament. We might even organize two-division league if we get enough teams.
What do you think are the contributions of Mahila Premier League for the development of women in sports in Nepal?
We want to create a place what the girls are aiming for. We want to create the league as divisions. We want girls to play regularly, improve their skills and aim to play in the league. Still now, people get surprised when they see girls playing futsal. So, if you get more girls who want to aim for the league, then people get wondered and it challenges the gender stereotype on what women can do. So, that’s really important. We are sure MPL contributed greatly on this matter.
Originally from Scotland, Jo is living in Nepal since the last 15 years.