Extra Time with Leeza Mangaldas: FC Goa brings art and feminism to football

Follow pitch-side reporter Leeza Mangaldas as she takes you behind the scenes this Hero ISL season. New posts every week exclusively on indiansuperleague.com. Connect with Leeza on Instagram or Twitter at @leezamangaldas. 

A specially commissioned mural in Margao (L), and FC Goa’s Women’s Team players Simone Lalwani, Velanie Fernandes, Yadnya Parmar, and Sneha Fernandes (R) 

FC Goa and its sister concern, The Forca Goa Foundation have consistently sought to make football more inclusive, finding inspiring and creative ways to celebrate and extend Goa’s terrific football culture. 

Every time I have a match in Goa, I learn of a new initiative or two — and this week I was absolutely thrilled to discover that their latest efforts intersect with the domains closest to my heart: art, and gender equality. 

This month, FC Goa joined hands with St+Art Foundation, which seeks “to make art accessible and create public spaces that speak to the soul,” to conceptualise a beautiful public tribute to the State’s love for the beautiful game. 

Local artist Dattaraj Naik took over a site in Aquem, Margao to paint one of Goa’s biggest murals. In choosing his composition, Naik was inspired by the interactions he had had with students from a school located right opposite the site of the art work — they echoed his own struggles as a kid who aspired to be a footballer. 

“The artwork represents a common situation of many school children who try to keep a balance between their academic studies and their favourite sport,” he explained. “I remember how hard it was for me to go even a day without playing football, and yet it’s almost impossible to stand up to the constant pressure to choose studies over sports.” he said. 

Thus, the upper half of the building, which can be seen from far away, depicts a boy sitting at a study table, dreaming. But as you get closer to the wall, the lower part of the building reveals a ball at his feet. He’s dreaming about playing football. The mural also sees a Gaur in the background which “represents the spirit of FC Goa that has unified the state in its love for the sport,” Naik shared. 

“Sports is a great way of not only learning but also an avenue for children to express themselves,” added Akshay Tandon, President of FC Goa. “We hope this mural will inspire children to take to the field and also impact parents.” 

In another move to help ensure that football is accessible to all, the Forca Goa Foundation, FC Goa’s grassroots and social impact wing, recently co-created merchandise that champions gender equality—with a view that the revenue generated from sales will be used to help create girls’ leagues in the state at the U6, U8 and U10 levels. 

FC Goa’s first team players and FC Goa’s Women’s team players wearing the campaign T-shirts. From Left to Right: Mohamed Ali, Simone Lalwani, Hugo Boumous, Chinglensana Singh, and Velanie Fernandes  

Collaborating with a project called ORB (Object, Rise, Burn) led by activist Ruchika Parab, the campaign is titled “A Girl’s Place.” The empowering messaging on the merchandise reclaims and disrupts the sexist, patriarchal ideas around what girls can and cannot do, such as play sport, particularly football. 

Velanie Fernandes, Chinglensana Singh, and Simone Lalwani

Alongside raising funds for the girls’ leagues, the campaign is also geared towards building infrastructure for the game, with a particular focus on nutrition, mental health, and gender awareness. “Plus, women coaches and physiotherapists, improving representation of women in all aspects of the game, and to help create better role models for the next generation of footballers,” Parab explained. 

Hopefully we’ll see more and more clubs adopt social impact initiatives like these to help support and grow their local football ecosystems. I can’t wait to get a selfie in front of the mural and get my hands on one of these girl-power t-shirts that will help support football in my home state! 

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