Eight Haryana village girls in India squad for Mongolia tourney
Fighting financial hardships and conservatism, the ‘football girls’ of Sadalpur village have once again earned this non-descript village of Hisar district international fame.
Eight girls from the village — Manisha, Anju, Ritu, Kavita, Poonam, Kiran, Nisha and Varsha — have made it to the 23-member Indian squad for the AFC Under-16 Cup qualifying round to be held in Mongolia from September 15.
Earlier, last month, all eight girls were part of the national squad that had won the SAF U-15 Cup in Bhutan.
“Most of my trainees are from humble family background — daughters of driver, marginal farmer and labourer — and making it to Indian team is a big achievement for them,” says coach Vinod Loyal, the person behind Sadalpur girls’ making it big in sport. “I hope that one day football will provide them ample opportunities to uplift the socio-economic status of their families.”
To start with, the girls practised at the village cemetery, before convincing the village panchayat, who were earlier not in favour of letting girls play football, to allot them land for a playground. “We trained at the village cemetery (in Sadalpur) 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.” After results started showing up, the panchayat got the girls a football ground.
Last year, Vinod opened an academy at his native village, Chuli Bagriyn, around 13km from Sadalpur. The girls cycle 52km daily — to and fro in the morning and evening — up to the village for their training.
Making it to national squad via Himachal
Interestingly, instead of their home state Haryana, the girls have taken Indian team route via Himachal Pradesh. Cold shouldered by Haryana, they shifted to Chandigarh, and finally moved to the hill state.
It was during the selection trials of the Haryana team for the 2014 nationals that only two of the girls were picked, triggering the exodus. “After that we decided to shift our base to Chandigarh and this year, we moved to Himachal,” says Vinod.