“EVERY RUPEE I EARN GOES TO MY FOOTBALL TEAM”
27 A tribal from Kalchini in West Bengal inspires girls from her community to play football, funding the process with proceeds from her tea shack.
Bhabani Munda, a tribal from the village of Kalchini, founded and coaches a football team of 11 tribal teenage girls, Dooars XI, financed by her small shack that sells tea and snacks. Dooars XI has played at the state level, and apart from winning prizes, also functions as a platform to save tribal girls who suffer repression at various levels. Bhabani’s battle against the odds—and her love for the sport—began the day she picked up her elder brother’s football instead of her clay doll, at the age of seven. Quite often, she didn’t have either a football or boots for her practice sessions, which would begin at dawn. A melon would take the place of the ball; and if her limbs swelled up because she played barefoot, she would massage them with hot oil through the night. Driven out of her home for wearing shorts and taking part in a marathon, Bhabani travelled extensively in the tea gardens, finding and coaching girls who wanted to play. She would sometimes train them in the gardens themselves, the idea being that dodging the small tree trunks would help the girls learn dribble better. On August 15, 2010, she unfurled the flag of Dooars XI at her dream club—Jubilee Club. Offers of a coaching position have come her way from both Australia and Italy, but she doesn’t want to leave her girls. Leaving them, she says, would mean the end of their aspirations to become socially liberated and economically independent.
BHABANI MUNDA (CENTRE) WITH HER STUDENTS
BHABANI MUNDA, Coach, Dooars XI, KALCHINI, JALPAIGURI