Six months after they caught the nation's attention with their superlative performances in tournaments in Spain, teenaged girl footballers from Jharkhand's Hutup village still do not have an adequate ground to play on.
Last August, after photographs of the girls dressed in red and white sarees and sneakers lifting the third prize in Gasteiz, Spain went viral on the internet, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren promised land and sports facilities for the girls trained by NGO Yuwa-India. Six months later, the proposal has got stuck over what the aim for such a sports facility will be.
While the state officials' vision is that the trainee footballers will go on to play in state and national teams, Yuwa-India's founder and the girls' coach Franz Gastler differs. He says the girls have faced abuse and neglect when they have played at state events in the past.
“We have had four players in national camps, three on the national team, and several players have been on the state team but they faced verbal and physical abuse while on these team. We cannot make “playing on national teams” a key indicator of success for this proposed academy,” said Mr Gastler, a 30-year old American who has been coaching the girls living in Ormanjhi on outskirts of Ranchi in football and their studies since 2009. He said he saw the goal of the program to be social development of the girls through sports. “The girls will be encouraged to enter good universities, and become even be coaches for other girls in their neighbourhoods,” he said.
State sports secretary Vandana Dhadhel said the MoU sent to Yuwa-India had proposed that the state government will build a sports complex on a 15-acre plot. It proposes that the state government will build the infrastructure and while the NGO “which had proven its credibility” would run the programs and take care of routine expenses and maintenance.
“With the state government meeting a lot of the expense we cannot accept that the girls will not play on state teams. This will restrict the girls' career as well. We have invited Mr Gastler to discuss this further,” said Ms Dhadel. Union Minister Jairam Ramesh who had donated a mini-bus for the team out of his MPLADS funds last August. The minister too has insisted that the trainees participate in state events, said officials.
“Once when we went to play on the national team in Sri Lanka, on our return, the coaches left us alone at Ranchi station without informing our families or Franz sir,” said Shivani Toppo, 13, who is among two girls from Yuwa who had toured with India’s under-14 team in Sri Lanka.