When Mary Kom was making India proud by becoming the first Indian woman boxer to clinch a gold medal at the Asiad in Incheon, thousands of kilometres away in New Delhi, Guddu Kumari Singh was exhibiting her vivid skills at the goal post at Dr Ambedkar Stadium on Wednesday.
Meet this stunning goalkeeper of Hazaribagh girls’ team who represented Jharkhand in Under-17 Subroto Cup Football Tournament being held in the national capital.
Sixteen-year-old Guddu’s story isn’t much different from Magnificent Mary. Like the Manipuri boxer, Guddu, born in a family of six —three sisters and two brothers — at village Kharake Namta in Dhanbad, had to face her father’s wrath for playing football.
“My father was against me playing football. But gradually he changed his mind, may be after seeing my photographs in local newspapers or after my relatives started appreciating my talent,” Guddu said.
Parents’ nod, however, was not the end of her ordeal. Her father, a farmer, couldn’t even afford a football boot for her daughter. Guddu, therefore, had to work as a child labour in a brick kiln to buy a football boot, quite similar to Mary’s first unsanctioned fight and the immense odds that she faced against a fancied opponent to win some money for her family.
“Brick kiln owner paid me Rs 10 for preparing 100 bricks. I used to earn between Rs 50 and Rs 100 per day. I worked there for around two weeks to arrange money for the boot as it costs around Rs 700,” said the 16-year-old talented goalkeeper.
After the boots, the next big hurdle for Guddu was to arrange jersey and kits. Since the Subroto cup management provides, jerseys and kit after the quarter final level, she had to hire jersey on rent from a local football club in Hazaribagh.
Ironically, Guddu takes inspiration from Lionel Messi, the star Argentine footballer who earns around £24.9 million.
According to her coach Deepak Toppo, the financial condition of other players of the team is also not very good.
“Most of the players find it hard to buy kits and jerseys, and therefore borrow them from a local sports club in Hazaribagh,” said Deepak Toppo, who is physical education teacher at Hazaribagh’s Carmel School.
The coach added that there is hardly any support from the government in developing football at the grass roots in Jharkhand.
“The budget for food is not enough. Each of our players gets Rs 150 for a day,” lamented Toppo.