How rural football is getting a leg up
NGOs like Rural Development Trust and Anantapur Sports Academy have been promoting football in rural areas for many years.
“AFL coaches, along with my teachers at school, supported me and the organisation also sponsored my shoes and football kit since my parents didn’t have enough resources to pay for my training,” says Shobha who won accolades as the best player and striker in her district many times. Today she is a final year bachelor’s degree student at a local government college and still practices her game daily.
“I have two sisters and a brother and my parents don’t have enough money to support my football training. However, because of my talent and because I have not neglected my studies, they are happy that I have become a footballer,” she says.
The Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) formally kicked off the community football league for girls in September 2015 to engage girls from the rural areas through football with teams from 11 mandals participating in the three-month long event. In 2016, the teams grew to 13 with the league being played over five months.
In pic: A crowdfunding effort is on to help footballer Rohini Pashte
“We now have about 500 girls mostly from government schools in the region participating in the under-13 and under-15 leagues. We also have an annual coaching camp being run by coaches from Sant Cugat Esport FC in Spain,” says RDT’s sports director M Nirmal Kumar.
Some of the ASA girls who have performed well are M Anjali Devi, C Meenaksi and Hemasri, all of whom represented Andhra Pradesh in national championships. Not all women football players from rural India may be as lucky. Rohini Pashte, a 20-year old from a village school in Pithore Shirasgaon, Jalna, Maharashtra, is an example. Her mother, a daily farm worker, got her admitted to a residential government school where her talent was spotted and nurtured by football coach Rafiq Shaikh. Pashte went on to play in the state team at the national level in the under-17 category and also represented India at the Homeless World Cup (HWC) tournament in Chile in 2014 as part of a Slum Soccer initiative where she scored 17 goals.
“But now her dreams of becoming a graduate and continuing with her football training have hit a roadblock because of the lack of funds. She has finished school and will no longer qualify in the under-17 category,” says independent filmmaker Minnie Vaid, who is trying to raise Rs 4 lakh for Pashte’s higher education through a crowdfunding campaign.
In pic: The Art of Sport focuses on development of girls through football
...and Soccer in the City
Richard Paiva, who has played football at the national under-19 level, too had girls football in mind when he quit a career in hospitality to launch a startup, The Art of Sport, with wife Nupur, a clinical psychologist. “The Art of Sport is India’s first startup focused on the overall development of young girls (5-12 years) through sports and group therapy,” Paiva says. The for-profit venture also focuses on basketball and is running two centres in New Delhi and one in Gurgaon.