For 14-year-old Pushpa Kumari, a native of a rural area in Jharkhand, it was difficult to convince her parents to allow her to don the spikes and hit the field with the ball. But, today, as she is on her way to play in the Donosti Cup football tournament in Spain, she feels all her struggle has finally borne fruit.
On Thursday, Pushpa, along with 17 other girls from Jharkhand, will be boarding a flight to Dubai and then Spain to play in the tournament scheduled from July 1 to 6.
Franz Gastler, an American, was teaching English to poor children as part of an NGO when a student asked him to teach football. That is how the language teacher became a football trainer.
Yuwa India, the under-14 football team, is part of Gastler’s NGO, Yuwa, and they would participate in the Donosti Cup along with 400 other teams from 30 countries. The team’s visit to Spain is being sponsored by Gamesa Wind Turbines, a Chennai-based company.
“My parents are very happy that I am playing football without compromising my studies. Earlier, they would not let me play saying the game was meant for boys. But it was after severe persuasion that they relented,” says Chanda Kumari (12). She, along with her sister Rinki Kumari (captain of the Yuwa India team), has stepped out of Jharkhand for the first time in their lives. Some of them do not even have an idea where Spain is or what is it like to go out of the country, but nevertheless they are excited about the tour. “I come from a village called Hutup near Ranchi. I had never been out of my village in my life,” said Chanda.
“These girls look simple and sweet, but once they are on the field they are professionals. I am sure that the team would excel in the tournament,” said an enthusiastic Gastler, executive director and founder of Yuwa, at a city hotel on Wednesday.