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Football gives back girls confidence, freedom after 19 months

NGO resumes coaching for teenaged girls

Jhinuk Mazumdar | Published 09.11.21, 08:10 AM
The girls’ team of the Calcutta Social Project

The girls’ team of the Calcutta Social Project

Telegraph Picture

A group of girls are elated to have got back their ‘confidence and freedom’ after a gap of almost 19 months, thanks to the resumption of their football classes.

Struggling to meet their needs and loaded with daily chores assigned to them because of their gender, football takes these 15 to 19-year-old girls out of the confines of their home and gives them freedom.


The girls were “pleading" with Calcutta Social Project, the NGO behind the initiative, to restart the football coaching, which was suspended since March 2020 because of Covid.

The NGO resumed the classes in October and the girls in T-shirts and shots are back to dribbling, kicking and playing twice a week.

Football has helped to build the confidence of these girls who are from highly deprived families. They are also made to feel “inferior” to the boys and men in the family, said Arjun Dutta, the president of Calcutta Social Project.

The girls practise on astro turf in Kolkata

The girls practise on astro turf in Kolkata

“The girls are made to feel dispensable by their own family members and whether its mothers or fathers they are ready to part with their daughters rather than the sons. These girls are aware of that,” said Dutta.

But since their mothers have entrusted them to the NGO, the girls are able to do things that living in their slum houses would not have made possible.

Kajal Singh, the captain of the girls’ football team, spends most of her time at the centre.

“My mother still has to listen to taunts because I play a sport and wear shorts. During the lockdown when there was no possibility of going out I would feel so confined and detached. We would request our coach to restart but that was not to be,” said Kajal, a student of Class IX.

For the detractors, Kajal’s answer is winning a tournament, sometimes against a boys’ team.

The NGO before the pandemic would organise annual sports and there have been instances when the girls team has defeated the boys.

“The challenge during this period was to maintain fitness and I, as the captain, had to keep telling my team that we have to exercise regularly even if we are not playing,” said Kajal.

Dutta said playing football helped these girls to “stand up” and also the organisation's way to change the mindset of the families.

“When they are playing against boys and in front of an audience that comprises their parents it helps to change the minds of the parents as well,” he said.

First year student Munmun Burman said she made her friends feel proud as well.

“None of my friends in school plays any sport but I do athletics, run marathons and also play football. I can sense the pride that many of my friends have when they see the trophies I have won,” she said.

Last updated on 09.11.21, 08:10 AM

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