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Love football, but no FIFA for now

- Soccer senoritas wait for sponsors to fly to Minnesota & play in Under-15 segment of USA Cup

Football is their life, but if you offer them a ticket to Brazil, they’ll turn it down and ask for one to Minnesota in the US.

Girl football players of Ormanjhi on the outskirts of Ranchi, trained by US national and Yuwa India founder Franz Gastler, who works to empower tribal youth through sports, stunned the world with their performances in two Spanish tournaments last July.

This time, they are hoping for similar magic in the Schwan’s USA Cup in Blaine, Minnesota, from July this year.

So, as the world tunes in to 2014 FIFA World Cup from June 13 in Brazil, the four-time world champions, 13-year-old Ormanjhi footballer Rinky Kumari, who is the captain of the squad that went to Spain, is praying for a ticket to the US.

The USA Cup has added a Super Elite group for U-15 boys and girls this year, a segment in which the Yuwa girls want to compete. The extensive media coverage of the Spanish tournaments and the then US ambassador Nancy Powell’s invitation last November to come to the US have cemented their standing.

The only hitch? They need sponsors for the trip.

“Star Sports (a private TV channel) is helping us in promoting and sponsor-hunting activities. But, flight tickets haven’t been bought yet. If we get funds by this week, the Yuwa team can complete visa formalities for the contingent and go to the USA Cup. The girls are focused on training,” said Rose Thompson, Yuwa programme coordinator.

That explains their promotional ads with the punch line: “I love football, but don’t want to go to Brazil.”

Ask Rinky’s teammate Kusum Kumari and she repeats the punch line in Hindi. “Mujhe football pasand hai par main Brazil nahin jaana chahti abhi. (I love football but don’t want to go to Brazil now),” she giggles. Displaying the trappings of a star player, she grinned: “Achcha lagta hai apna photo paper mein dekhna (I love seeing my picture in newspapers).”

Sandeep Chetry, one of the mentors of Yuwa India, said recent exposures both at national and global stage have fuelled the aspirations of these tribal girls.

Hailing from humble backgrounds and illiterate families, till last year, the girls faced snide remarks and virtually no encouragement from villages as they donned jerseys and sneakers to practise football in the morning.

“Now, there’s a drastic change among parents and the community. After their performance in Spain, they went to Delhi, where they were again feted for playing well in national matches. Leaders and celebrities from Jharkhand and outside have met them and praised them. Their confidence level has grown,” he said.

He added the sole aim of connecting girls with football was to curb trafficking and child marriage and instil in them the confidence to dream big.

“If they go to the US and play well, there’s a good chance of scholarships, or admission to a good academy. Let’s hope for the best,” Sandeep said.

How can you help the Ormanjhi girls reach the US? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com