A group of tribal girls from Jharkhand were beaten and asked to sweep floors by bureaucrats when they requested for birth certificates they needed to apply for passports. Thanks to their American coach Franz Gastler, the girls managed to get passports to travel Spain to play a football tournament. With no proper football gear because of poor financial condition, the girls may not have won the tournament but they achieved something remarkable that sports persons with the best facilities and support in cities often aspire to but don’t always succeed.
On July 13, these 18 girls representing ‘Yuwa India’ under-14, all-girls team were placed third among 10 teams playing for the Gasteiz Cup in Victoria Gasteiz in Spain. Earlier during the Donosti Cup, Spain’s biggest football tournament, the girls made it to the quarter-finals from among 36 international teams.
The girls dressed up in red-bordered white saris to receive the prize. From being slapped to being felicitated, one of the girls from the team remarked, ‘I do not remember the slap given by our bureaucrats, I remember the Cup.’
There is no dedicated football fields available and no stadium close by to train these girls or for daily practice. All these girls also assist their low wage earning parents in the villages with household chores like sweeping, cooking and washing clothes.
Since its inception in 2009, ‘YuWA India’ has gradually grown under its American founder Franz Gastler, a post-graduate in political economy from Boston University. “The aim was to empower the girls so that they can be empowered to stand up for themselves”, explains Gastler. He is now preparing the girls for a spirited performance in all international arenas.