Freedom to compete | Making a run for it

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Can the humble football be a weapon against gender inequality? A group of girls from tribal villages near Ranchi prove that it can, and fight for their right to play

At 4.30 in the afternoon on an overcast day, a large, fallow field on the outskirts of Ranchi turns into a colourful playground. Girls as young as 5, in frayed T-shirts and shorts, teenage girls in bright, festivesalwar kameez or frilly skirts, and a handful of girls in full kit—green striped jerseys, black shorts, and boots. They have one thing in common—all of them are kicking footballs.

Manisha Tirkey stands out in her black jersey, not only for her strong built, but also equally for her deft feints. An abruptly-dropped shoulder to the right, a quick step over, and she’s running clear with the ball.

Not so fast. Kusum Kumari chases. She is tiny, but quick. She tries to slide in to take the ball away, misses, and tumbles in a heap of laughter.

By now you’ve probably heard about the football girls of Yuwa…

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