Gujarat's Sarkhadi village in Gir-Somnath district erupted into celebrations on May 16 after its girls clinched a historic victory in the 24 Youth National Volleyball championship over a formidable Kerala.
While the girls in this nondescript hamlet close to the Arabian Sea have brought several laurels earlier, this win was memorable as half of the girls in the team belonged to Sarkhadi. Moreover, Kerala has been bagging the trophy for the last 16 years and had four players who have played at the international level. Gujarat's team was captained by Sarkhadi girl Sandya Rathod.
"In the beginning, we got a bit intimidated seeing the height of Kerala players. They were an experienced side but our coordination during the game was impeccable which helped us beat them," Sandya said, according to The Times of India. The final match was held in Sangli town of Maharashtra on May 16.
The team's coach Parita Vala said that the girls of Sarkhadi had won several medals in the past but couldn't get good practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"But six players were from the same village and used to practise together, which resulted in good combination and coordination," Vala said.
Besides Rathod, other players were Usha Vala, Nirali Vala, Deesha Vala, Priyanka Vala and Manisha Zala, all from Sarkhadi and Nipa Barad of Sidhaj village of the same district.
'Road To Success Has Been Challenging'
The road to success for these girls has always been challenging. In the absence of a proper indoor facility, they practise on the school's rugged ground despite the scorching heat and harsh weather conditions.
A few years ago, this village had extreme water scarcity and the girls had to get it to their school during practice as there was no supply.
Parita Vala participated in the junior Asian championship in China in 2014, while Kinjal Vala was captain of the youth India team in the Asian youth girls volleyball championship organised in Thailand in 2014. In 2010, Shilpa Vala represented India at Asian Youth Championship held in Malaysia.
Kanji Bhaliya, district sports officer, said, "This victory is the result of the girls' hard work. They continued to practice and maintained their fitness even during COVID times. Sarkhadi village has now become the hub of volleyball."
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