Thursday, March 30

Kol stopover for girls on way to US as sports ambassadors

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Six girls from underprivileged backgrounds from remote villages of the country have braved all odds and mastered the art of football and rugby with such proficiency that the US government has decided to send them as sports ambassadors from India to the US. Five among them are below 16, while one is about to touch 18.

On Thursday, the group of six, comprising five footballers and one rugby star, were in Kolkata to collect their visas from the American Consulate for the sports visitor programme, which will take them through games and leadership training in New Jersey. According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the consulate, the visit spans between June 28 and July 14.

The girls — all daughters of farm labourers — found it difficult in taking up sports as a passion as their parents wanted them to work and add to the family income. But after Sandhya Rai followed her passion and captained the country in the under-18 rugby team, her parents — both of them tea garden labourers in north Bengal — realised how important it was for Rai to continue playing.

Rai has not left studying and she is currently pursuing sports management at a city college. “I am privileged to be considered for the sports visitor programme. I am not only looking forward to learning new skills but also towards interacting with other women players in the US,” she said.

Two under-16 football players, Aarti and Sunita Kumari, who have represented the country in the prestigious Donosti Cup in Spain, are from remote villages in Jharkhand that can be accessed from Ranchi.

The group also has two under-16 football players, Jolina Marak and Smardhini Sangma, from Meghalaya. Both have represented their state and are yet to cross over to the national level. The sixth and the most senior member of the team is Rekha Sharma from Assam. More than her football skills, she is unique because she has set up a football academy in her village and has encouraged every girl to join it as a protest against child marriage. Sharma has also graduated into a football coach.

Sharma said the best part of the programme would be to watch the semi-finals and finals of the ongoing Women’s Football World Cup in France.

Source: Times of India

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