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In this Haryana village, Football is assisting girls in finding their feet, became a part of village life

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Sep 17, 2022 11:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute

There are no energy drinks or supplements for them, nor is there a special diet. Cadets at Haryana's top football nursery for girls stay energised by drinking water from a hand pump near the playground and munching on sprouted chana.

We're in Alakhpura, a 2,000-person village in Haryana's Bhiwani district, where young girls were inspired to play football in 2006, not by the Fifa World Cup, but by the promise of scholarships to help their low-income families. Football is now a part of village life, with over 200 girl trainees practising twice a day, from 6am to 8am and 3pm to 6pm.

Daughters an Asset Here

Daughters are no longer regarded as a liability in Alakhpura. After all, 20 of those trained on the village football field have gone on to work for the Indian Railways, paramilitary forces like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB), and the Assam Rifles, and even the Haryana Education Department.

The jobs are significant because the majority of the girls come from low-income families (BPL). They can't afford a domestic flight, but they all have passports to represent their country in international events.

In 2006, Gordhan Dass, a physical education instructor at the village's government school, introduced football for girls. He prepared the football field with the help of Alakhpura residents and encouraged girls to play football.

Sonika Bijarnia, Alakhpura's girls' football coach since 2014, says that at first, the only motivation for the girls was the Haryana government's scholarship money for performing well in competitions (Alakhpura girls get around Rs 90 lakh every year from the state in scholarships).

When football became the ticket to government jobs, every household in the village began encouraging girls to play. While the state government covered the costs of coaching and equipment, the village formed the Alakhpura Football Club (AFC) and began crowdfunding a portion of the trainees' expenses.

Hunger for Victory among girls despite limited facilities and resources

When an Alakhpura girl or the village team wins, the panchayat and football club greet them with a victory procession. Hunger for Victory Despite their limited facilities and resources, the Alakhpura girls have defeated teams from the Northeast, where football is a traditional sport.

Their success is due to an insatiable desire for victory, which is fuelled by thoughts of competing across the country, trying different cuisines at the venues, being rewarded with new shoes and equipment, and finally landing a government job.

As a result, about ten of the 20 players on Haryana's women's football team are from Alakhpura. Two village girls, Ritu and Santosh, are members of the national women's football (senior) team, and two others, Shelja and Varshika, are members of the Under-17 World Cup camp.

In total, 75 Alakhpura girls competed in various national-level competitions in various age groups, and 12 competed in international-level events. The seed planted by coach Gordhan Dass was quickly bearing fruit.

Alakhpura girls finished second in the prestigious Subroto Cup in 2011 and 2013. They won the Cup in 2015 and 2016. In addition, they advanced to the semi-finals of the 2017 Women's Football League.

Dass, who is now posted in a nearby village, says the Alakhpura experiment has proved that every village has such talent – all it needs is the r ight training. He feels happy seeing “the girls are getting jobs on their own and becoming financially independent. They are not seen as a burden or liability by the villagers. ”

Also Read: Meet Fayaz, who transformed a piece of barren land into Kashmir’s First Eco Village

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