India witnessed a historic moment when Manipur launched its transgender football team in March 2020. The project, started in 2018, has now come to fruition with the launch of a 14-member team.
This happened during the 2018 Yaosang Sports festival when the founder of the Ya-All NGO realized that the locals left no place for the inclusion of the third gender and divided themselves into men and women. Yaosang, a festival celebrated in Manipur during the five days in spring is one of the most important festivals in Manipur. The festival is the indigenous tradition of the Meitei people and the Hindu Meitei play with colors during this festival. Sporting events take place to channel the festive energies to spout out talents at the grassroots level.
It was during this time that the founder Sadam Hanjabam staged a separate event for the transgender community. He took football, the most popular game in Manipur as a tool to break stereotypes in the community. The event garnered huge excitement and created a huge buzz in the community. Contributing to the buzz, more and more transgender men agreed to join the team. The 2020 edition was the 3rd edition of the event and it marked the launch of a 14 member team.
‘I was overwhelmed and I never thought we could do it. I played as a striker and used the platform to come out and reveal my identity to my family. Being a part of the team helped me to accept myself. My family supports me now and I hope to strengthen this team’ were the expressions of Christi, a proud member of the team.
‘I was always interested in sports from childhood. But as I grew up and started identifying myself as transgender, there was no platform for me to show my talent with my real identity. Since sports are categorized only for men and women, transgender individuals are made to fit in either of the two. It becomes an issue when we share the same dressing room and toilets. I somehow joined the women’s category but was discriminated against. I am the bread-earner of my family. So I decided to quit playing and started working in an apparel store. Had there been an inclusive non-discriminatory platform, I would have lived my dream’, worried Max, the midfielder but he was happy to be a part of the team.
Although the team has been lauded internationally and made headlines nationally, bringing laurels to the State, there has been little support from the State. The team hopes to follow the footsteps of our Iconic Men and Women footballers and become the First set of Transgender players representing Manipur and India.
The transgender communities have always been stereotyped in a certain kind of job like running beauty parlors, designing, etc. They are also not given the much-needed platforms and opportunities, they are stigmatized and bullied in schools and work-spaces and even sports. Most of them even drop out of institutes or are not welcomed equally. Considering the sufferings of the community, the initiative that Ya-All has taken requires huge applauds.
We at IFTWC take immense pleasure and would like to congratulate Ya-all for this great initiative. We would also like to inform our readers that the NGO’s other initiative, ‘Khudol Initiative’ was listed among 10 Global Youth Response to COVID by United Nations. You can read about the Khudol Initiative here: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/un-kudos-for-lgbtqi-initiative-in-manipur/article31650715.ece?fbclid=IwAR1dS_c6wmvcph-AwrQ2b_canDd_zOjpjZPa6KYH9vZCVfseChqMvkV_T-M
We would like to see more such teams in the future emerging from other parts of the country. This will be a huge boost for the LGBTQ community and will give them a platform to perform and prove themselves along with breaking the stereotypes. What we need is a little acceptance, hope, and support from everyone of us who follows this beautiful game of football.
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