“We would like to play for the country as all players are full of confidence,” are the words of Poonam to The Times of India.
Poonam is the vice-captain of the Yuwa team that represented the team in the U-14 tournament of the Gasteiz Cup, a cradle of hot budding talented footballers in Victoria Gastiez, Spain. They were to eventually win the bronze medal in the competition, a historic achievement.
Her words, however, don’t reflect half of the story.
A few months ago, she was among the eighteen tribal girls who were maliciously ill-treated at the panchayat office on the outskirts of the capital Ranchi. The news that trickled out stated that they were cruelly slapped and made to do chores such as sweep the floors, by a panchayat official, just to get their birth certificates which was required by them to complete their passport formalities.
The officials even reportedly tried to force them into paying away bribes.
Now, celebratring at their newfound stardom thanks to the zenith of their accomplishments, they want to put the matter to bed and move on. They plan on sharing their international experiences of participation in Spain with others who dream to make it big.
Neeta Kumari (13), says the memories of cheers and accolades are still resonant. “We were treated like princesses everywhere we went after winning the third place,” recollected Kumari. She and her team-mates were coached by Franz Gastler, an American football aficionado, who set-up the Yuwa India NGO.
The Chief Minister of Jharkhand on Friday, announced and awarded a cash price of Rs.21,000 to the players and also presented them kits besides allocating acreage for a new stadium in the state.
It has also been duly noted that the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) women’s council met to discuss plans on how best to tap tribal girls’ potential talent.
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