For 15-year-old Varsha Kumari, the notion of sport being a unifier of communities, race and religion is irrelevant. She was attracted to football for the love of it, but her real kicks lie in being an athlete which has given her a sense of relevance within family and friends.
Varsha, hailing from east Delhi’s Trilokpuri area, picked up the sport two years ago when the Magic Bus NGO visited her government school and encouraged underprivileged children to join a Sunday crash course.
A few weekends later, she fell in love. “When I joined the course, I was clueless about football. I just liked to kick the ball around and get thrills from it. At first, I never thought I could pass the way I can today. As we played more, I realised my life should revolve around football,” she said.
Varsha did have to do some convincing, though. “My parents didn’t allow me to join the team at first. They felt girls of my age should start contributing to the household, and later get married. I had to do a lot of convincing and crying before my father let me join Magic Bus. I want to learn a lot about football, so it is like another class in school for us,” she said.
Today, everyone in her community is aware of her exploits on the pitch, “I get great joy that everyone knows I am playing for a football team. We are playing matches and tournaments, and our school makes us feel special. I am given more importance because of football,” she chuckled.
But her love for the sport is restricted to the pitch: “I have hardly seen anything on television. I don’t have any favourite player. My coach (from Magic Bus) is my favourite player.”