Girls of Armenia Leadership Sports Educational Foundation (GOALS) organized the final round of the Assarian National Tournament for girls aged 12 to 16 on July 15.
Leading up to the final games over 80 teams of girls from across Armenia and Artsakh participated in regional competitions. Four teams each representing their regions, Lori (Stepanavan), Syunik (Goris), Shirak (Artik) and Artsakh (Stepanakert), made it to the final games hosted at the Avan Football Academy in Yerevan. Each and every single girl present at the tournament was there to win and to represent their team. After a fierce competition in the final game between Artsakh and Syunik, Artsakh came out victorious winning this year’s National Tournament.
“I am really happy about this victory. I was sure we would win because we put countless hours into practice and we were determined. As a team, we were invested 100 percent in the learning process. GOALS came to Artsakh two years ago, and since then we have waited for this day and it finally came,” reflected Valentina Grigoryan, a player from Artsakh.
Gagik Aghabalyan, an Armenian Football Federation executive committee member, was present at the award ceremony. In his opinion, this initiative is one of the efforts in Armenia through which they develop girls’ football. “We talk about men in football every day, yet we seldom speak about our girls. Gradually, our attitudes and stereotypes must change. Great victories start from paths like this.”
To increase girls’ participation in sports, GOALS Educational Foundation created 8 football leagues in Armenia and Artsakh. Over 1,000 students are engaged in 80 football teams: not only do girls develop football skills in these teams, but also, they develop skills and knowledge in healthy lifestyle and hygiene, leadership, and social-emotional competencies, such as teamwork, sportsmanship, and mutual respect. They break stereotypes and show agency against discrimination.
“Throughout the past couple of years, we have seen how our programs and our girls have developed,” said GOALS CEO Teny Avakian. “There have been many obstacles along the way and the challenges still persist, such as a common stereotype about women’s participation in sports, however with over 1000 girls now leading a healthy lifestyle and learning essential skills along the way we must be doing something right. A team sport isn’t just about being an athlete, it’s also about learning transferable skills that are not only necessary to be successful in sports, but also life. After all, life is basically a team sport.”
As stereotypical thinking, quality education issues, and the lack of financial opportunities hinder the development of young girls and women in Armenia, GOALS provides girls aged 6 to 16 with infrastructures, sports gear, coaches, training and other resources to develop and learn.
Using sports for social impact GOALS aims to help youth overcome challenges in the field and beyond. The National Tournament, which has already become a tradition, this year is named after Dr. Gary and Linda Assarian for their generous support of the GOALS Educational Foundation.
Girls of Armenia Leadership Sports (GOALS) is a non-profit, non- governmental organization operating in Armenia since 2016. It is the only sports organization in Armenia promoting gender equality through sports—primarily in rural Armenia and Artsakh—and is dedicated to empowering girls and young women across Armenia by promoting health, life and leadership skills through their participation in an all-female soccer league. GOALS’ Theory of Change is rooted in the philosophy that sport can be used as a vehicle for transforming society and expanding the possibilities of its participants. The Theory of Change can be summarized into three core activities: creating safe spaces for young women and children to participate in sport; educating communities and challenging existing stereotypes through sport for social impact curriculum; and fostering strong partnerships with local institutions to lay a sustainable framework for our activities. GOALS provides the infrastructure, coaches, equipment and resources to create girls’ soccer leagues in rural communities across Armenia and Artsakh. Currently over 1,000 girls from 80 communities participate in the organization’s activities.