How these women footballers in a small village in Haryana are changing the fate of their families through sports
Alakhpura is a small village in the Bhiwani district of Haryana. It has a population of nearly 2000 people consisting mostly farmers and daily wage earners. Farmers’ returning from the fields leading their cows back to their shelter is quite a common sight in a village like Alakhpura. In that non-descript Haryana village, no one would ever expect to see dozen of young girls warming up to practice football. But it is true; more than 300 women train regularly in a big field right next to the village’s only government school. Among them, 11 have represented India and several others have represented the state across all age groups.
It all began in the year 2002, when the school’s physical education teacher Gordhan Dass was training boys to play kabaddi and girls went to him and said they wanted to play too. Gordhan, a qualified kabaddi coach, decided to give the girls a football that was lying around in the school premises. A decade later, there are around 300 girls from the village who train everyday in the school’s adjoining field.
There was a time when the girls would sit with a punctured football. We didn’t have money to get a new one. Those girls are now playing for India, said Gordhan Dass.
The girls never miss practice even if it rains or even if their practice field turns into a muddy slush. The crowded field clearly signifies that nothing can deter the spirit of these young girls.
We practice every day. Storms and rains can’t stop us from playing, says Poonam Sharma.
18-year old Poonam Sharma has been playing football since last seven years. Last year, she even represented India at the Asian Football Confederation Under-19 qualifiers in Vietnam.
It is important for these girls to get success in their Football career, because that gives them a better livelihood for their families. Simultaneously, these women footballers are changing the mindset of the people by being capable of changing a family’s fortunes just like a male child.
The team came into the limelight when the players of the Alakhpura government school won the U-17 Subroto Cup – a national tournament in 2014. The girls also managed to the reach the finals in 2015, and win it back in 2016. The Alakhpura girls have also been a part of the Haryana U-14, U-19 and the national teams for over a decade now.
Last year, the girls formed Alakhpura FC to participate in the first Indian Women’s League (IWL), initiated by the All India Football Federation. The team won the regional qualifiers in Haryana to be one of the 10 teams to qualify for the second round of the IWL. However, they lost to Manipur’s Eastern Sporting Union in the semi-finals.