Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)

49 girls from Mumbra bend rules to make a mark on football field

The suburb’s first all-girls football tournament will be held on Internatio­nal Women’s Day

- Kunal Purohit

MUMBAI: Just how important can a sport be in one’s life? Ask Mumbra girl Ikra Ansari. The 13-year-old, whose life revolves around football, spent five days to convince her parents to allow her to play the sport.

Likewise, Nazneen Khan, also 13, who had to give up on playing outside her house as a child, had to fight her own battle to be part of a football team.

Each of the 49 girls, who will play Mumbra’s first women’s football tournament, the Fatima Bi Savitrabai Football Tournament on Internatio­nal Women’s Day, have their own story. All of them have fought societal censure, parental control and the guilt of discarding their scarves and dupattas for their dream.

For these girls, the significan­ce of this event goes way beyond sports. Around five years ago, when a motley bunch of girls started playing football, it was nothing less than sparking off a silent revolution. Many girls would drop out, after signing up. Some would have to lie at their homes to play. Others would have constant pressure from neighbours and even parents and brothers to stop doing so.

These are the reasons why when Parcham, a not-for-profit organisati­on that encourages these girls to embrace sports, announced the tournament and called for entries, they were anxious about the turnout. But they were pleasantly surprised.

“Within days, we got over 100 applicatio­ns. We didn’t have the funds so we had to get in a profession­ally certified coach to narrow down the list to 49,” said Sabah Khan, who runs Parcham.

Parcham tied up with the Thane Municipal Corporatio­n (TMC)’S education department for pushing girls in civic schools in Mumbra for the tournament.

However, getting the girls interested was only the first of many battles that Parcham and TMC had to fight. For many, football was a game they’d never heard of. “Barring three to four girls, who had only watched the game on television, most others hadn’t even heard of it. This was the beginning of the challenge,” said Sabah Parveen, associated with Parcham, who is training these girls.

Another challenge was getting the girls to shed ‘shame’ and guilt at playing in public spaces, said Khan, saying that they only pushing the girls to “let go of their bodies and run” was a big task.

Parveen added, “These girls are not used to leaving their homes without scarves and dupattas. For the first few days, they refused to play without these. We had to speak to them, mentally condition them to shed these while playing.”

Which is why, for many like Ikra, while the first few days were tough, the battles haven’t ended. “It felt very weird to not have my scarf or dupatta on me. I am still not very keen on wearing a T-shirt and a track pant on Tuesday, but I am trying to adjust,” she said.

Ikra had never played football till that day. Nearly 40 days later, she’s the captain of her team.

Nazneen too is delighted. “I wanted to be a doctor. Now, I want to be a footballer who is also a doctor,” she gushes.

 ?? PHOTOS: PRAFUL GANGURDE ?? Girls practise for Fatima Bi Savitrabai Football Tournament to be held in Mumbra on Tuesday.
PHOTOS: PRAFUL GANGURDE Girls practise for Fatima Bi Savitrabai Football Tournament to be held in Mumbra on Tuesday.

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