How These Teenage Soccer Players From Russia Will Make History At The World Cup

"It's like a fairytale for them."

When the World Cup kicks off this Thursday, 14 girls from Russia will make history as the first-ever all-female group of "ball boys" for the tournament's opening match. According to Reuters, the girls range in age from 13 to 16 and come from a small town called Agryz about 500 miles east of Moscow.

These "ball girls" play soccer for a team in the region of Tartarstan. The Russian national team reportedly selected them from a sponsor's shortlist of "inspiring entrants" to a national junior soccer tournament. Russia, this year's host country, will take on Saudi Arabia in the opening match.

"It's like a fairytale for them," said the girls' coach, Ildar Idiyatov.

The job of a ball boy or ball girl in soccer is to speed up the game by retrieving and delivering balls to the players. As the girls are used to playing on the field with their feet, they will have to get accustomed to using their hands for their new role.

"Women are not a weak sex, we are always ready to compete with boys at the same level," said Daria Vasilyeva, one of the ball girls. "At the World Cup, all of us are united and we are all just as worthy and can also pass the balls to the football teams."

It's not the first story of female soccer players making history this year. A group of women called Equal Playing Field, who previously played soccer on Mt. Kilimanjaro, headed to the Dead Sea in April to play the "lowest" match in history. Then in May, New Zealand became the second country in the world to ensure equal pay for its male and female soccer teams.

Reuters reports that, according to the World Cup organizing committee, 776 youths will be ball boys or ball girls during this year's event, which will feature 64 matches. Excitement over the latest tournament comes in the midst of news that the United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the 2026 competition. 

Check out the video above for more on the ball girls.


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