…YDFA’s vision for gender equality creates opportunities and life skills for young female athletes
By Sonam Deki
Young Dragons Football Academy (YDFA) is making remarkable treads towards gender inclusivity in sports. The academy now offers cost-free football coaching exclusively for girls, a commendable initiative that nurtures athletic skills and fosters empowerment within the realm of sports. This endeavor signifies a pivotal moment in dismantling traditional barriers and amplifying opportunities for young girls to thrive in the world of athletics.
North City Futsal stands as a pioneering sporting business within the Taba community, established in 2020 as a small family venture. Recognizing the demand for such a platform in a rapidly expanding city, the founders aimed to develop a service that would ensure not only financial sustainability but also establish a social platform for fostering a wholesome livelihood and promoting social inclusivity within communities.
Tashi Tobgay, the founder, and owner of the futsal facility, stated, “Since then, we have realized that through this platform, we can play a vital role in positively engaging the younger generation to learn life skills and adopt a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. This realization gave birth to the Young Dragons Football Academy in 2021. The academy was co-founded by North City Futsal and the highly competent coach Galey Zangpo. Initially, we started enrolling youths aged between 5 and 12 years, providing them with football coaching and essential life skills in exchange for a nominal monthly fee. This fee covers coaching expenses and the rental cost of the training ground. The overwhelming support from the community’s well-wishers encouraged us to aspire to even bigger goals that could holistically benefit the entire nation. Over time, we began offering scholarships to young individuals based on criteria such as personal interest, parents’ financial status, and encouraging female participation to promote gender equality in sports. We view sports as a viable employment option for young girls, providing them with better opportunities compared to boys. Our efforts have enabled girls under the age of 18 to participate in the National Open Football League organized by the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF). Currently, we have nearly 100 youth footballers actively engaged in our academy.”
He added, “The Academy aims to serve as a bridge for the younger generation to excel in football, providing exposure particularly for young girls. The goal is to encourage greater participation of girls in sports and establish our own women’s club in the future. Furthermore, the aspiration is to eventually establish football as a viable long-term employment option. The ultimate objective includes contributing skilled players to our parent organization, the Bhutan Football Federation. Finding a women’s coach for the girls remains a challenge due to financial constraints in hiring a licensed female coach. Despite offering free coaching, the number of girls who come forward is limited, which consequently affects team formation across different age groups. The inability to provide separate training for girls is attributed to the lack of technical support from relevant agencies.”
Parents’ overwhelming support has played a significant role. The introduction of free coaching for girls has resulted in a higher number of girls stepping forward. Currently, they have over 12 girls in the age group of 8 to 12.
One of the parents of a girl stated, “We are truly grateful to receive free coaching for our daughter. The coaching sessions provide her with the opportunity to go outdoors and spend time with friends outside of school. Additionally, my daughter is an enthusiastic football enthusiast.”
Two girls have been part of the academy since its inception. They have consistently attended sessions for nearly 3 years.
Eight-year-old Mohani said, “I am an ardent lover of football, and receiving free coaching from North City Futsal is a blessing. Since I am benefiting from these lessons without charge, I ensure wholeheartedly dedicating myself to them.”
Likewise, Tshering Yangki, who is nine years old, expressed a similar sentiment.
This unique approach has garnered attention and support from parents, players, and the local community. Parents appreciate the academy’s efforts in breaking down financial obstacles that might otherwise deter girls from participating in sports. Local residents commend North City Futsal for contributing to a more inclusive and progressive society.
The girls at Young Dragons Football Academy are not only learning football skills but also gaining valuable life lessons such as teamwork, discipline, and self-confidence. With the hope of attracting more girls to the academy, the institution aims to foster a new generation of talented female athletes who can shine both on and off the field.
As the academy continues to make strides in promoting gender equality through sports, with determination and dedication, they are rewriting the playbook for a more inclusive sporting community.