Breaking barriers in sport: Meet India’s first transgender football team

The Yaoshang Festival is one of Manipur’s most captivating and vibrant festivals. It marks the onset of spring and is often referred to as the ‘Holi of Manipur’, celebrated across five days. The festival, with a rich heritage, is synonymous with sports and games where people across communities, age and gender come together to take part.

But when Sadam Hanjabam, a PhD student and founder of Ya-All, an NGO that works to empower youth and the queer community, was present at the Yaoshang sports festival in 2018, he noticed how locals divided themselves into male and female, leaving no place for the inclusion of the third gender.

It was during that time he conducted a separate sports event for the queer community, the first of its kind in Imphal. With football being the most popular sport in the state, Hanjabam saw the beautiful game as a tool to break stereotypes in the community.

He managed to stage a six-a-side friendly match between transmen and transwomen. It turned out to be a crowd-puller. Surprised by the buzz it created within the community, Hanjabam decided to create a football team of transgenders – something that had never been done before in India.

The six-a-side friendly match between transgenders was held at…

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