There are several footballers, who were drawn to the game while following their seniors’ play for the National team. But few can boast of watching those stars playing in their backyards.
But that is exactly the story of at least five Haryana girls in the India U-17 squad, waiting to play the World Cup in the next couple of days.
Varshika who hails from Alakhpura (Haryana) is a huge follower of Sanju Yadav, a defender in the Senior Women’s National Team and started playing football when she was seven years old.
“I used to watch Sanju didi, and Ritu didi play and train in our village ground. And since then I have started playing football. Firstly, I had no idea how far I could go, but watching them play for the country gave me that extra push,” she said.
“When I represented the state a few years ago, I was determined to play for the country and did not look back ever since,” added Varshika.
Neha mentions Renu and Manisha Kalyan, the strikers in the Senior Women’s National team, as her idol. Neha belongs to the same village where Renu and Manisha stay in Haryana.
“My brother saw Renu play in our village and asked me also to play and learn football. I never thought this would become my passion and that I can play in the World Cup”, she smiled.
When asked about her inspiration, she said, “Renu and Manisha didi are my idols, I have grown up watching their games. I have learnt a lot from them- their game style, and the way they control the ball. I want to become like them one day with all their qualities”.
Naketa, a shy girl, mentions Sanju’s name as her inspirational factor. “I grew up watching Sanju didi and have taken a lot of inspiration from her. She has worked hard to become what she is today.”
Sheilja, who started playing football from the age of eight, is also a keen follower of Sanju and belongs to Alakhpura (Haryana).
“Sanju didi is from our village, I want to become like her. She is very calm and plays with full concentration. It is not easy, and I am trying to apply all these in my games,” the midfielder said.
“I never imagined getting selected for the World Cup squad. It’s a huge thing for me and my family. I will not disappoint them.”
Kajol who also hails from the same village, started playing with her sister and looks up to her senior players like Ritu Rani, Ashalata Devi.
“My father did not support me earlier but when I got selected for the squad, I told him – Look, I will also play for the country now as our senior didi – Ritu Rani did,” she said.
“I watch their games a lot and try to take something out of it. I have worked hard for this moment to come. It’s time to support each other and give all the efforts on the pitch”, Kajol concluded.
(Sruti Chakraborty / AIFF Media)