Malappuram is no longer the land of religious orthodoxy and gender bias.
On Friday afternoon, the Mapila town of Malappuram witnessed a historic event when women, men, and transgenders rubbed shoulders to play football in front of a large cheering crowd.
A gender neutral football tournament organised by the youth wing of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) became the first of its kind in the country. The Yuva Samiti chose gender neutral football to bring about a change in gender attitude largely because of strong gender biases seen on playfields.
“Gender differences begin to show up on playfields even before the child attains 10 years of age. Like playfields, our galleries too are male centric,” said K. Sreejit, a Yuva Samiti worker.
Four teams comprising women, men, and transgenders fought it out in the tournament. The Women Soccer Academy, Vallikkunnu, the Women’s Academy, Kozhikode; the Students FT, Thutha, and the Kadathanad Raja Academy fielded teams with seven women, three men, and one transgender in each team.
The number of men was reduced to three in an 11-member team because of the power play involved in football.
When men were given fixed positions of full back, half-back, and forward, women and transgenders enjoyed freedom of positions in the field.
Although the organisers were worried about opposition from certain conservative quarters, they were surprised at the enthusiastic response from the crowd of Malappuram.
“We should demolish the gender biases built in our society,” said Abdul Gafoor, a teacher and an avid football lover.
When the Women’s Academy, Kozhikode, lifted the championship by beating the Vallikkunnu team 3-1, the crowds broke open the floodgates of celebration. “It’s jubilation of not just football, but of gender neutrality,” said Mr. Sreejit.
The KSSP started its gender neutral football attempt from Kasaragod. But it got much acceptance in Malappuram, where football is loved with immense passion. The organisers said that the next round of the game would be in Palakkad.