Football is not just a game for these girls from Manipur and Afghanistan
They had never seen a double-decker bus. Not even in pictures! Delhi was a distant destination. Football was close. They knew by playing football they stood a chance of travelling far. So they kicked the football about. Some in fun and some with purpose! They had a date with Delhi thanks to football. It was thrill and bliss as they accomplished their ambitions of playing in Delhi and also discovering the place.
For these girls from Manipur, the Subroto Cup football tournament was the culmination of a dream; it was a platform to make a statement on their prowess with the football. Just as their competitors from Afghanistan came and learnt some important lessons. The most important lesson was to take defeat in their stride.
The girls from Kabul’s Rabia Balkhi High School take their football seriously; in fact, too seriously. The copious tears they shed at every defeat demonstrated their passion for the sport. For many of these girls, football represents a medium of expressing their feelings. What if they need to defy traditions and pursue a sport that is considers a domain of boys and men in Afghanistan. It hardly impacts the mindset of these girls.
Coach Faiz Mohammed who had a difficult time convincing the parents to allow their daughters to play football, observed, “It was a learning experience where the girls were exposed to competitive football and the culture of India. We all had a great time.”
The Afghan girls were on a learning trip. Leaving home was a first for most of them but it was a tour they had looked forward to. It was sport and education and the girls were aware this was the best opportunity to live their dreams. It hardly mattered if they lost for every defeat made them wiser.
“We have been seeing India through the Bollywood films. We had watched Mere Brother Ki Dulhan several times and since then we wanted to come to Agra and see the Taj Mahal. The visit was dream come true,” said Zarafshan, captain of the team. “Just to watch the highways and the greenery on both sides (driving to Agra) was great. It was refreshing and a good break for all of us as we were very heartbroken after our loss (in the tournament).”
The Subroto Cup Football Society has stood out for its promotion of the game. They ensure fair competition and combine sport and education with their visionary programme. Teams that come to Delhi discover the culture and history of the place through educative tours that the organisers provide free of cost.
The Oriental English School from Manipur had a great time in Delhi. Visit to Delhi was obviously a first time for the girls and the sightseeing was an unforgettable experience for them.
Lhingneikim Kips, who was adjudged the best player of the under-17 girl’s tournament, and Ranjeeta had visited Delhi twice before, in 2008 when they represented India under-13 in Vietnam and in 2009 when they were a part of the India under-14 team that toured Sri Lanka.
None of the girls had ever visited any historical monument. For Kips the tournament was special. “We had such a memorable experience of playing football, winning the tournament and also getting the opportunity to visit these monuments which we have only seen and read about in books.”
Omita and Arti were the ‘official’ photographers of the team. They just couldn’t fail to stop clicking their experiences. “See we want to frame every moment spent here so that we can show our friends and family when we go back home,” said an excited Omita.
They return home with happy tales to share with their friends and a fervent desire to come and play the Subroto Cup again next year! The tournament, organised by Indian Air Force, is supported by the legendary Amitabh Bachchan, cricket icon VVS Laxman and badminton star Saina Nehwal.