“The government will take all steps to support and encourage them to pursue the sport”

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Friday announced that18 girls from the State’s Hutup village who turned in superlative performances in two international football tournaments last month, would be awarded cash prizes on August 29, the National Sports Day.

Mr. Soren promised the girls, members of the under-14 football team of NGO Yuwa-India, that his government would build them a stadium within six months at Dhanumojha village, close to where the girls practise now.

“These girls have performed wonderfully even with the limited facilities available to them. The government will take all steps to support and encourage them to pursue the sport they have chosen and award them Rs. 21,000 and a sports kit each,” the Chief Minister told the media here after meeting four members of the team.He said the government had initiated action against Deepak Sahu, Hutup’s panchayat sewak, for slapping and mistreating the girls when they approached him for help in June to get birth certificates which they needed to apply for passports.

Last month, in a three week-tour of Spain supported by Gamesa, a Spanish wind energy company, the girls took part in the Gasteiz Cup and the Donosti Cup. The girls — a majority of whom were playing outside their village for the first time — came third among 10 teams in the Gasteiz Cup, and reached the quarter finals, from among 36 teams, in the Donosti Cup, Spain’s biggest football tournament.

“We felt good that the Chief Minister met us. We have told him that we do not have a proper ground to practise and that sometimes our families find it difficult to pay school fees. We will inform him as and when problems come up,” said Neeta Kumari, 11, who has been learning football from Yuwa-India’s coach and founder, the 30-year old American Franz Gaslter, since she was seven. Mr. Gastler had earlier applied to the Sports Department for land for a football field for more than 220 players from 10 villages supported by Yuwa-India.