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Soccer power for girls

The great game of soccer has travelled thousands of miles and come to the industrial town of Jamshedpur to empower women.

Two female soccer players — US-based Joanna Lohman and the UK’s Lianne Sanderson — made their way to the city on Thursday to hold a six-day coaching camp for underprivileged girls. The training camp, being held in association with Tata Steel, will be conducted at various venues like Tata Football Academy, JRD Tata Sports Complex and Armoury Ground.

Joanna and Lianne, who together are credited with the foundation of the JoLi Academy — that aims at bringing about an impact in the lives of girls in developing countries — have joined hands with American ice-hockey coach and Yuwa Foundation founder Franz Gastler (30) for the training. Yuwa started with 15 girls playing soccer in Rukka village but has since expanded to over 250 players in 10 villages.

Speaking to The Telegraph on Thursday, Franz, who has been in India for six years, said the camps would not be limited to Jamshedpur.

“We plan to leave for Ranchi on January 16 and continue our camps there for three more days before leaving for our respective countries,” Frank said. He added that they had also held talks with football associations in Assam and Manipur, which had in turn also agreed to send over some girls for the camp.

Joanna and Lianne said they were looking for a long-term relationship with Yuwa.

“Our academy aims to empower girls through sports. Through coaching, we aim to develop personality and instil confidence and determination in these girls, all of who hail from poor backgrounds,” Lianne, who has played as a mid-fielder-forward of the women’s team of Arsenal FC and was voted the player of the match in 2006 FA Women’s Cup Final, said.

Joanna, on the other hand, is a mid-fielder with the US national soccer team and has the experience of leading the country’s U-23 squad for two years as its skipper.

She made her debut in 2003-04 and has so far earned seven caps for the national team. She has also been the top-scorer for Philadelphia Independence — a women professional soccer league team — and played for Barcelona in the 2011-12 season.

One of the girls present on Day One of the coaching camp in the city thanked Yuwa for helping her realise her dreams.

“Before we took to soccer at Yuwa Foundation our parents wanted to marry us off. Now not only do we get to live our dream and play football, but we also are able to earn something (anything between Rs 500-Rs 1,200) by coaching other girls. Yuwa helped us get noticed and saw we made the cut to the state team. It also helped us pick up many health habits,” said 17-year-old Nilam Kumari, who hails from Huthup village in Ranchi’s Ormanjhi block.


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