Jharkhand’s teen footballers hit the big league in Spain
New Delhi: Seema Kumari couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift as she turns 15 today. The Class IX student from Jharkhand’s Ormanjhi district, who held her first football at the age of 10, is among a select bunch (in picture) picked to join a training course for coaches by Real Sociedad’s La Liga team in Spain.
The group of 10 — eight girls and two boys from Jharkhand’s villages — landed in Spain on Friday afternoon. Over the next few weeks, they get to pick up coaching skills from some of the best trainers in the game. Associated with Jharkhand-based Yuwa — an NGO that seeks to connect youngsters in Ormanjhi to education through fo- otball — each of them will train and then lead a team drawn from the villages.
On October 2, they hope to return home armed with skills to empower their teams.
The young coaches will meet and train with players from Real Sociedad (Royal Society), a club that plays in the La Liga, the top league of Spanish football, attend a blockbuster match in Bilbao aga- inst European champions Real Madrid, and also meet San Sebastian’s mayor, Eneko Gola.
Speaking to TOI from Spain, one of the girls, 16-year-old Chanda Kumari, says she is a big fan of Argentine footballer Lionel Messi. “Humbhiunkitarhaan forward khelteyhain (I also play as a forward like him),” she says.
Chanda, whose parents are daily-wage construction workers, began playing football in 2009 and now leads a team of 15 girls drawn from different villages. The journey has been tough. There was resistance from her family and her decision to wear shorts to play was abig roadblock. “I was determined to play football along with my studies and so I kept going for the coaching classes at 4.30am. Seeing my dedication my family came around and my mother became my biggest supporter. Now I coach a team we call Gagari Smile. It is named after the village we play in. We play in the open ground, as there is no dedicated football stadium or field there,” says Chanda.
Seema, who comes from Dahu village, coaches a team of 20 girls who call themselves ‘Super Kids’. Like other girls, she too faced resistance from village elders who felt football was for boys. But her parents supported her.
Her father works in a cotton thread factory and mother is a housewife. She wants to grow up to be a software engineer. And football is her route to empowerment. “Humein compete karnabahutachha lagtahai (I really like to compete),” she says. Leading his team of young coaches is Yuwa India Trust co-founder and coach Franz Gastler. “Society teaches girls to fit in. Yuwa coaches girls to stand out,” he explains.
“With support from BookASmile, we couldn’t be happier to be giving the first group of Indian coaches the chance to train with a La Liga team. We chose these eight young women and two young men from our 35 coaches who lead practices for 270 girls and 30 boys in Jharkhand every morning.”
Yuwa has been working in the Ormanjhi area for the past seven years. The school dropout rate is high among girls here, as are the incidences of early marriage, gender-related violence, and human trafficking.
The eight girls and two boys from Jharkhand’s villages will meet and train with players from Real Sociedad (Royal Society), a club that plays in La Liga