Why’s there no media coverage of this inspiring victory, is it because this was not cricket? Here is a heroic tale of ourunderprivileged girls, who made us proud despite all odds.Two weeks back, as a billion plus India slept, a handful of Jharkhand tribal girls proudly held aloft a trophy they won in their *maiden entry* in a football tournament in far-flung Spain.
They were the same girls who were slapped, kicked and made to sweep floors by arrogant bureaucrats in Jharkhand when the girls asked for birth certificates, a necessity to apply for passports.
It was the night of July 13. Hundreds of firecrackers lit the skies as the girls screamed Vande Mataram – their battle cry – for being placed third in the Gasteiz Cup, the world’s best testing ground for teenager football in Victoria Gastiez.
The girls were lovingly titled ‘The Supergoats’ by the organizers in Spain the moment they saw the girls playing barefoot in practice matches on arrival.
Why? Because the girls had limited football gear and could not take the risk of tampering it before the tournament. They were overawed by international teams in the first tournament, the Donosti Cup, but came to their own in the second tournament.
Offering a consolation prize for the third team – winner of a match between losing semi-finalists – was a mere formality for the organizers.But for the girls, it was a giant leap into global soccer from their impoverished Rukka village near Ranchi, considered one of the world’s epicenters of child marriage and human trafficking.
As soon as the announcement was made for the prize distribution ceremony, the girls rushed into their dressing room and returned, some barefoot, wearing red-bordered white saris, their traditional festive dress. Many had their plastic flowers in their hairs.
And when they huddled together after the mandatory photo session, some wept inconsolably because they had almost given up their hopes to participate in this tournament.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel was not aware of the girls’ superlative achievement, nor was the country’s new sports minister Jitendra Singh.
“We could not sleep that night (July 13),” says Rinky Kumari, 13, captain of Supergoats. Once she bunked her school helped her mother do household chores. Today, thanks to football, everyone knows her name in the village.
She says she remembered the days she was slapped and sweep floors when she went to the Panchayat Office get birth certificates for her passport.