A stadium packed with people, with over a thousand people screaming their names. People sporting jerseys with their numbers. That feeling of pride as they score goals to bring victory to their country! This is every sports person dreams of. And it’s no different for Bhabani Munda, and her Dooars XI – a bunch of passionate football players, who have fighting the odds to keep their dream alive.
As we set off from Dhupguri, a chai break on the way lead us to our next story at Dooars, West Bengal. The chai stall that we stopped at was run by 4 girls. Curiosity got the better of us, and we wanted to know what prompted them to do this. They told us about Dooars XI – their football club run by Bhabani Munda, their coach. The money they earn from selling tea and rotis goes into helping them pursue their passion for the game.
The challenges were plenty. A small village, nestled among tea estates and majestic mountains, bound by the stereotypes of society, where girls are supposed to be married off by the age of 18. Wearing any outfit that went above the knees was looked down upon. Villagers calling them ‘brazen’ and ‘shameless’. Opposition from parents, relatives, neighbours. Sneaking out for practice/ a game. Pursuing a sport that does not get the recognition or perks that Cricket does. Being promised support, and receiving none of it. Not having proper shoes, socks, or even footballs to practice with.
But through all of it, they had one strong force that kept them united in their cause – Bhabani Munda. She began playing the sport since the age of 7, and having faced constant disapproval from her family, she moved out of her family home when her brothers locked her up to dissuade her from playing in a tournament. She now lives with a few team members, in a place of her own. But the struggles are far from over.
The girls don’t have football gear of their own. They borrow their brother’s shoes and socks, some of which are tattered, old and torn. Each of them stay at least 6-7 kms away from each other, and they have just 2 footballs to play with. Which means that they cannot practice on their own, they need to meet up for that. Some have been selected to play nationally, but without the basics, how can they excel and take on challenges like these? Is National pride in sports only limited to Cricket?
They’ve won over a dozen medals and trophies, and their spirits are intact. Nothing can take away the passion they feel for the game, and they are grateful for the way it has shaped them as individuals. But it’s time for them to go further, dream bigger. They’ve created a league of their own, let’s help them score the goals they’ve been dreaming of.
We can give the team members kits consisting of socks, shoes (studs) and a football each, costing Rs 1,100 each. A total of Rs 16,500 for a team of 15. Let’s contribute to this Half Story with donations or shares/ tweets on your timelines.