Former Indian football captain Sona Chaudhary, who claims to have played for India between 1995 and 1998, has alleged that women players of her era were subjected to sexual exploitation by officials in a new book, which by her own admission is a partly fictional account.
Sona has made the allegations in her book titled ‘Game in Game’, which is written in Hindi.
The former captain, whose credentials have not yet been verified by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), claims that she has been witness to exploitation of players even though she herself never went through the ordeal.
Presenting a dark picture through her lead character Manvi Singh, who rises from the confines of an orphanage to be a national level footballer but dies in the end due to exploitation at the hands of sports officials.
The former player claims she has changed the names of the players, respecting their privacy.
In the beginning of the book, she has described a junior player’s first-hand experience of sexual exploitation at the hands of officials.
She writes that a manager of the team asked one of the senior players, described as didi (sister), to come with him alone.
Sona writes that the junior player found the manager trying to force himself on her senior in a guest house, where the team was staying.
Further in the story, Sona mentions about lack of quality food for players during the 1989 National Championship in Maharashtra even as the officials enjoyed sumptuous food.
Manvi, who was leading the Uttar Pradesh team, led a protest and eventually managed to get quality food for the players during the tournament.
She also writes about a team manager trying to get an unfit girl into the national team.
Sona claims that the incident related to physical intimacy between an Indian player with another woman during one of the team’s foreign tours was a true one.
“We were on the tour of Bangladesh, a girl of our age spent lot of time with one of the sponsors’ daughter. We spent about 15 days there and kept meeting sponsors. A player of our team and that daughter of the sponsor developed a close friendship.”
“I don’t know what to name that or how to describe that. In my understanding it was love. That way it unfolded before me, I had somehow accepted it but it was difficult to explain or expect that others would understand it without judging,” she writes in the book.
Writing about another incident related to sexual exploitation of a footballer from Himachal Pradesh during National Games in Pune, Sona has written how the Secretary of state team “called the player on the pretext of a press conference and sexually exploited her”.
When fellow players asked the victim to lodge a police complaint, she refused, fearing it may end her career as her parents will never allow her to play the game again.
It has also been claimed in the book that the manager of the team would travel with two girls, who were not officials, during tours.