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

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - METRO - 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.

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