She takes a few moments as she tries to recollect those troubled times.

As her memory fails her, if you expect her to express regret at her inability to remember those months of struggle, you would be left disappointed — for she only breaks into peals of uncontrollable laughter.

“So much happiness has arrived since then that I have forgotten what happened before,” blurts out the 13-year-old Supriya Kumari, referring to the YUWA team’s much-acclaimed performance at the Gasteiz Cup in Spain earlier this year.

Much changed after the girls came into spotlight. Unfortunately, not a lot of it was for the better.

“I was in the US when the girls returned from Spain. I read about the promises in the media, just like everybody else.

“I think those promises were a result of the questions asked by the media regarding the lack of support from the government to the girls.

“I read that they promised a bus and a football ground,” says Franz Gastler, the American founder of YUWA.

Gastler finished his education in Boston and came to the national capital few years ago for work.

However, an obsession to achieve something meaningful caught hold of him, leading to the establishment of YUWA on the outskirts of Ranchi.

“Our initial proposal was for 10 acres of land, but the government offered us only five.

But the land was transferred to the local mukhiya (panchayat leader), and not leased to YUWA. So, we are at the mercy of his whims now.

“After Spain, the state government gave Rs.21,000 in compensation to each player. But the people who own the land (where the girls play) got jealous and dug up the field. Now half the place is used as a toilet and half as a farming field.

“The girls play on the edge of it. So, we got 75-80 kids playing on an area the size of one quarter of a football pitch,” rues Gastler.

Though the conditions are far from ideal, they haven’t adversely affected the girls’ skills. YUWA played a 20-minute exhibition match against the Subroto Cup girls’ junior champion from Manipur at the Ambedkar Stadium on Saturday, and the match finished goalless.

The YUWA girls are in the 13-14 age group and their opponents are two-three years older. The NGO was awarded Rs.100,000 to further develop its education programme through football.

Each YUWA footballer was also given a football kit from adidas.

  • The YUWA girls are in the 13-14 age group and their opponents are two-three years older

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