On the way to our next destination - West Bengal, we stopped for some tea and we saw 4 girls running the tea stall - that's where we found our next Half Story. A story of courage and perseverance, that highlights not just the plight of women in India, but also the state of sports.
We discovered that they sell tea and rotis to earn money so as to sustain their dream of playing football professionally. They told us about Dooars XI - their football club run by Bhabani Munda, their coach.
Bhabani Munda began playing the sport since the age of 7, and having faced constant disapproval from her family, she moved out of her family home when her brothers locked her up to dissuade her from playing in a tournament. She now lives with a few team members, in a place of her own.
These 15 girls face a lot of challenges. Being raised in a stereotypical society where girls are supposed to be married off by the age of 18, the villagers called them ‘brazen' and ‘shameless' whenever they wore shorts. They were promised support many times, but received none.
They do not have proper shoes, socks, or even footballs to practice with. They do not get enough practice because there are just 2 footballs, and this team of 15 need to travel from various locations to a common spot for practice sessions.
Most of them borrow their brother's old socks and shoes. The socks are ill-fitting, the shoes torn - due to overuse. Sometimes, they get shoes when they play for clubs/tournaments, but they have to return it after the game.
They've won over a dozen medals and trophies, and their spirit is unwavering. Nothing can take away the passion that they feel for the game and they are grateful for the way it has shaped them as individuals.
Some have been selected to play nationally, but without the basics, they cannot do much.
Shakuntala Ohora has played for the country and despite promises of help, she has only received a jersey, track suit & socks. She does not even have a football to practice with.
She still feels a sense of pride, and wants to play for her country.
They've created a league of their own, and we wanted to help them score the goals they've been dreaming of. To help them play professionally, we asked people to help give the team members kits consisting of socks, shoes (studs) and a football each to practice with…amounting to Rs. 16,500/-
This is the transformation we saw - from baggy socks and torn shoes to bright new footwear and their own footballs. Thanks to the network of Do Righters who shared this story and sent lots of love their way through donations.
The girls were jumping for joy and they did not want us to leave. We watched them play a match with their new equipment and proceeded towards our next destination.