Junglemahal girls put best foot forward

Dozens of girls from Maoist-hit region have joined football clubs in Kolkata, thanks to soccer couple.

As a child, Tania Mudi's life was a little less ordinary. Not that she grew up in affluence. Far from it, Tania was looked upon differently because her father had an alleged Maoist link. It was not unusual though for someone from a family living in Sankrail, about 30 kilometres from Jhargram. Having grown up in the Maoist-affected area, Tania could have easily picked up a gun. But she chose a normal life. Football helped her take the right decision.

There are about 26 other girls from the dreaded Junglemahal who got a new lease of life through football. A soccer couple in Kolkata, Raghu Nandy and Ratna, have made that happen.

"When I was the coach of Bengal Under-19 football team, one of my wards, Pradeep Kuiti, requested me to go to Junglemahal for a talent hunt. Kuiti hails from Tamluk and was very confident about the abilities of the youngsters in the area.I spoke to my wife, who had represented the Bengal women's team and we decided to start working with the girls. After Trinamool Congress came to power, the government organised a football tournament in Junglemahal and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee gave away the prizes. It created huge interest among the girls as well. They wanted to play football. So, when we went there December last year, the response was spontaneous," Raghu told The Indian Express.

To begin with, the couple chose 13 girls and brought them to Kolkata. They credit the success to two police officers posted in Junglemahal Nazrul Islam and Shibram Dey. "The girls were registered with Sarojini Naidu Sports Club, which is run by us and plays in the IFA league. It was a new dawn for the players, all of them tribals and coming from a completely different culture. Playing in Kolkata was beyond their imagination. They used to play for their local teams in Junglemahal. So when the opportunity came, they embraced it," Raghu added.

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