In ‘Backward’ Bihar, where entire village communities frown on women playing sports, a labourer buys a plastic ball for his daughter to pursue her football dreams…
“My father is my very first coach. When I was small, he bought a plastic ball, and he taught me to kick it around,” says Priti Kunari, a feisty sixteen-year-old secondary school student from Sorampur High School, near Akbarpur Village in Phulwarisharif area of Patna District.
In 2015, When two women field workers from Gaurav Gramin Mahila Vikas Manch showed up at the door to recruit thirteen-year-old Priti into the empowerment through football programme, they received an enthusiastic ‘Yes, of course, you can enrol my daughter’ from Tuntun Sahu, her father. Tuntun earns a living painting and whitewashing houses.
GGMVM, supported by CREA (Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action ) has so far introduced over a thousand girls to football in Bihar.
Priti was in Patna as part of the ‘Football Match for Women’s Equality’ event held by Caritas Suisse on the occasion of the start of the FIFA World Cup. “I am a lucky girl because my father is really fond of football. My elder brother showed no interest in football, preferring cricket, which is very popular in Bihar. But when my dad found out I liked to play with the ball and kick it around, he was really happy. He had wanted to join a football team when he was younger, but he couldn’t get an opportunity or a chance in those days. So my dad really taught me all the basic tricks about football, like how to kick and how to receive the ball.”
Priti says that through the efforts of the NGO, she has had the opportunity to go for training camps and get tips from national level women coaches. She has set her sights on a career in football, greatly encouraged by her father.
The only hurdle is that scholarships and training opportunities are really few for women’s sports, and football, in particular, she says. ‘Girls from poorer families like mine rarely get opportunities, because most of our parents are working class people, they do not earn enough. So mainly boys’ education and needs are given priority, thus girls have to survive on what’s left if the budget. I am a lucky girl because I am the younger one and my elder brother is also an earning member of the family. But still, the kits and fees for coaching are very expensive.”
Caritas Switzerland deserves a big thank you for giving us a chance to play in Patna, and also for the football gear and kits.
Priti functions as a peer group motivator and trainer for the juniors in the GGMVM football programme. She plays in the forward position on the field and has so far won 5 medals. Priti says “I want to be football player and fulfil my father’s dream and make him proud. And he is my inspiration”.