They made history. And still their own politicians never noticed them. But now, they got a pat on the back, from none less than US ambassador to India Nancy Powell, who took time off to meet them on her maiden visit to Jharkhand.
Monday, indeed, was a red-letter day for the 80-odd teen footballers of Yuwa India -- an organisation run by US national Franz Gastler.
The country’s first women’s team to participate and win the bonze in an international tournament in Spain, the girls had got little recognition at home.
Powell’s words came as a balm: “I am proud of their determination and achievements amid odds.”
It was no empty recommendation. Powell’s conversation with the girls -- in English and halting Hindi -- provided a clue or two.
Asked how she became the US Ambassador, Powell told Puja, “I was a teacher in a remote village before I turned diplomat. I used to teach children of farmers like your parents.” Dressed in a traditional white saree with a red border, which her mother had borrowed for the occasion, Puja glowed.
From village Hesatu, where she met most of the players, Powell travelled to Hutup, 20 km north of Ranchi, to meet three senior players -- Kusum, Chanda and Sunita Kumari.
The girls’ success story is one of the few that “inspire and promote women empowerment,” said Sourabh Sen, global affairs advisor with the US Consulate. “Hence, we advised the Ambassador to visit them.”
Will the state leaders please take note?