India’s #Football Champs: The Real ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ #Girls!
On July 13, 2013, a team of tribal Indian girls, all under the age of 14, from the remote village of Ormanjhi, in Jharkhand, laughed excitedly as they lifted their hard won bronze trophy in the prestigious Donosti Cup game in Spain! Most of these girls had never even been outside their village till then!
The organizers in Spain called the girls “Supergoats.” That’s because before the actual match, these girls would practice bare-feet. With limited resources, they could not afford to replace their football gear if anything got spoiled or broken. So they’d save their gear for the actual match!
However, the story of what it took for these girls to get to where they did with their dreams is both heart-breaking and angering!!! In a just released interview these girls have talked about how local bureaucrats in their village humiliated them for their dreams and aspirations and subjected them to all sorts of abuse when they approached them for their birth certificates. To acquire a passport and visa, these girls needed birth certificates.
The government bureaucrats decided they’d have to earn their birth certificates by slaving for them — cooking, cleaning, sweeping the floors etc.
The government officials also physically abused the girls — they were slapped and kicked, and told they’d never win the match in Spain because they were so malnourished and puny compared to the European girls!
Finally the girls managed to get their birth certificates because their coach, an American, Franz Gastler, who founded Yuwa-India (the team these girls were a part of), and who fought on their behave and took the matter to higher authorities.
Yet eventually, not only did the Indian media not pick up on this hard won victory by these young girls, who had nothing but their dreams to carry them forward, but shamefully the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel it seems was not even aware of the girls’ achievement, and nor was the country’s new sports minister Jitendra Singh!!
How many more girls are there in India, with incredible dreams and potential, whose dreams are squashed by the corrupt, abusive and misogynistic government and political machinery in India?
How important is it to bring the freedom and rights of girls and women to the political platform in India?