The perception that football is exclusively for men is still the majority’s understanding. But the Women’s Football Club, founded for women by Mayan Mohamed and friends in 2019, set the stone to alter this belief.
The club's football academy is for female adults and children, and both the coaches and managers are female.
In a game that is monopolised by men, this is the first club that has no men’s share in it. "Among the international sports that are played in the Maldives, this would be the first club that a man has no share in," Mayan said.
Before founding the club, Mayan and her friends played a role in making football accessible to women. Mayan also pushed to form the first women’s national football team in the Maldives.
"I joined the Football Association of Maldives as a development officer and, in 2001, formed the national women’s team for football. At first I was an official, and later on I played for the team for five years", Mayan recalled.
Amira is the other individual who has persistently served as an advocate for women's football.
The reason for forming the WFC was because there weren’t any organisations or individuals working to permanently promote football for women. Apart from three matches played by the national team each year, there were no official tournaments, and women's football was not officially recognised in the Maldives. Nonetheless, a lot of girls and women aspire to play football. According to Mayan, the opportunity was the only thing missing.
"Many parents question why there are no football fiestas for young girls. They say that their daughters want to play but the opportunity is lacking", Mayan said.
"We know that parents are also looking forward to having girls' tournaments in interschool as well as a football fiesta for girls."
However, there aren't many opportunities in women’s football at present.
"This is why we formed WFC—because of the apparent lack of opportunities for women and girls in football. We do not want to wait for other people to take initiative on this. We want to pave the way for women and girls to enjoy football."
50 participants are now enrolled at the academy. Each group of 25 youngsters has a coach.
WFC competed against a Sri Lankan team last month. The football team had visited various atolls and competed against teams from those islands. The Sri-Lankan team, hailing from Elizabeth Moir International College, has extended an invitation to the Maldivian team to play on their grounds.
The club has faced backlash and setbacks from non-supporters, but Mayan and the squad stand firm in their commitment to going further with their cause.
"Children enrolling at the academy has increased. The number of women coming to play out with the club, three days a week, has also increased", Mayan proudly said.
Mayan had also prevailed in the significant case she brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sports against the AFC and the former head of the Asian Olympic Council (CAS), Kuwait’s Ahmed Al Sabah.