Austinmer woman Margie Andreason has returned from the experience of a lifetime, the only Australian to be invited to coach soccer at the Women's Rights and Football Festival in Goa, India.
Mrs Andreason was one of eight international coaches hand-picked by German charity Discover Football for the eight day sports tournament in August which doubled as a women’s rights festival.
Discover Football is an advocate for females in sport and creates events for women who play football against all social, economic, or religious odds.
“The role of women [in India] is to grow up, get married and have kids,” Mrs Andreason said.
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For some of the women involved in the tournament, getting permission to join a team took a persistent coach knocking on their parents’ door every day for a week.
“When these girls are parents themselves and they have little girls, they will see the idea of playing football as a good thing ... I think they’ll be more open to what women can do in the future,” Mrs Andreason said.
The casual school teacher also works as a head coach with Football United predominantly in programs helping refugees and new migrants, and was already familiar of the power of sport as a tool.
Around 80 players aged from 16 to their late-20s travelled from various parts of India, playing in teams with empowering names like Female Autonomy and Mutual Consent.
Not only were they given the opportunity to be in a tournament, football was also used as a tool for addressing discrimination against women, the fight for empowerment and gender equality.
Sporting metaphors were also used to strengthen mutual solidarity to fight for women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health rights and for more inclusive football.
Mrs Andreason said she had “endless gratitude” for her time spent with these amazing women and the coaching team (also from diverse backgrounds across the globe) all fighting for the same cause – women's rights.
Even turning up to the first day of competition proved interesting when a men’s team tried to take over the field, despite Discover Football having already secured it for the women.
Mrs Andreason said everyone involved had a common bond beyond a love for the round ball, overcoming roadblocks to earn the right to play the game in the first place.
“I don’t think it’s fair that women don’t get equal access to sport … even growing up in Australia women still have issues where they’re made to feel unwelcome and it’s not their place,” she said.
“Whatever you can do to try and help others, then why not.”
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