On an overcast Saturday morning, the radiance was provided by a vivacious group of female footballers when the 14th Independence Cup football tournament was inaugurated here.

As many as 155 teams from across the district are participating in the event.

Speaking to The Hindu, a few girls demanded that they be allowed to play alongside the boys in mixed teams, while others said the girls' teams should be pitted against the boys' teams in an open tournament.

However, they agreed that since football was considered a male preserve, they were constantly compared to the boys. “Give us a few more years and we will beat the boys,” said Fathima Abdulnasser, who is representing NIT-K School, Surathkal. She said that in her school, the coaches did not discriminate between boys and girls. Her teammate Shafa Aashoor said that they were still a few paces behind the boys in their school but the rivalry was intense. “Unlike us, they play after school with other boys. They are better only because they practice more,” she said.

The girls' team from Infant Jesus Joyland School has had more success against the boys' team.

“We are often beaten by them. But we too have beaten them several times,” said Khatiya Mafara, a player. “When they start losing againstus, they start playing rough. We also start playing equally rough football,” said Sana Siraj. “They used to ask us why we even bother to participate in the tournament since we would lose anyway.” But all that changed the year they lifted the Independence Cup.

“That year, the boys lost and that settled the argument for ever,” said Sana Siraj.

Vruksha R. Shetty from NIT-K School said, “The girls' football culture was started in our school because of this tournament.”

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