Footballer Robin Singh doffed his cap to the indomitable spirit of women

“It is important to challenge yourself, before someone else challenges you,” said ace footballer Robin Singh, to appreciative nods from the gathering. At a function to celebrate International Women’s Day here recently, the Bengaluru FC and India striker had the undivided attention of 15 women from Smile Foundation, a national level development organisation. The women, who hail from disadvantaged backgrounds, were beneficiaries of the ‘Twin e-Learning Programme (STeP)’ - the Smile Foundation’s employability programme for the youth. Robin was only too happy to support the cause, and gladly answered a few tricky questions.

“I do not feel like a celebrity. You guys may not be able to play football like me, but I cannot achieve the things that you have either. We are all equal,” he said, when asked how he handles fame. The 23-year-old kept the women in good spirits with a few humorous replies, before making a promise to return soon for more interactions.

“I know that all of you have overcome a lot of problems; it feels great to be here with you,” he said, and added: “I will try to arrange for all of you to come and see the next Bengaluru FC match at the stadium. I will also ask Sunil Chhetri (the Bengaluru FC captain) to spend some time with you.”

The session ended with a serving of cake, and despite a meek protest, Robin was cajoled into taking a few calorie-rich bites. A short football scrimmage with his new-found fans helped to ease the guilt. As he made his exit, the former East Bengal forward earned praise from everyone involved with the event. Vikram Singh Verma, the COO of Smile Foundation, thanked Robin, adding “We strongly believe that when you empower women, a whole generation is empowered. We have a long way to go in this direction, and we can only achieve it by involving everyone. All of us can inspire change in our own way.”

There are some things, that Robin is not keen to change just yet. When asked by a lady if he is married, he replied: “I do not even want to attempt this challenge; I have given up even before it gets started. I know I will lose, so it is better to stay single.”