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From training at cemetery to ruling the national scene

The girls from village Sadalpur in Hisar, Haryana, helped their adopted team Chandigarh win the under-14 national football gold

football Updated: Dec 03, 2016 23:48 IST
The girls from Sadalpur village in Hisar, Haryana have set an example in perseverance, overcoming odds to make a mark for themselves on the football field.
The girls from Sadalpur village in Hisar, Haryana have set an example in perseverance, overcoming odds to make a mark for themselves on the football field. (Karun Sharma/HT)

Starting out by training on a cemetery due to paucity of space, the girls from the village Sadalpur in Hisar district of Haryana are ruling the country in sub-junior football.

Once denied a place by their home state, these girls, mostly from humble background, shifted base to Chandigarh two years back. And, on Friday, they helped their adopted team win their maiden football national gold in the girls’ section. The Combined Schools team from the city clinched gold in the under-14 section at the National School Games in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh.

Of the 18-member squad, 11 belong to village Sadalpur and, at any given point of time, 9-10 girls from the village were on the field. Their victory is all the more significant as Chandigarh defeated the country’s football powerhouse Manipur 3-0 and got the better of Haryana 4-2 in the semifinal.

The under-14 Sadalpur village girls with their coach Vinod Kumar Loyal. (Karun Sharma/HT)

Anju, whose father is a driver, was adjudged the ‘player of the tournament’ because of her prolific goal-scoring ability. While the team scored 62 goals, half of them were scored by Anju. Her village teammate Manisha, whose father is a daily wager on a farm, was given the ‘best goalkeeper’ award.

“It is a big achievement for us. We have proved our worth,” says coach Vinod Kumar Loyal, the man behind the success story of Sadalpur village. “During the selection trials of the Haryana team for the 2014 nationals, despite being the best team in the state, only two of our girls were picked. That triggered an exodus and in the next academic session, 25 of our girls in the U-14 and U-17 categories took admission in DAV Public School, Chandigarh,” says Loyal.

As the school doesn’t have hostel facility, the girls stay in a dharamshala.

The Chandigarh under-14 football team with the trophy at Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. A majority of the girls in the squad are from Sadalpur village in Hisar. (HT Photo)

Recalling the tough days, Loyal says, “We trained at the village cemetery for two years… training had to be suspended for the day whenever there was death in the village,” recalls Vinod. “The village is dominated by the Bishnoi community and as per tradition they bury their dead.”

But when the players started showing results, the panchayat allotted land in 2014. However, due to paucity of funds, the land had to be maintained by the players themselves. Thanks to the effort the village has produced six international players and around two dozen national medalists.

The journey has been tough but fruitful.