Football is the first love for many youths and is considered the best sport in the world. For many, football is just more than a sport. Not less than often it is considered as one of the expensive sports too. Unfortunately, in India Football has always been the game of the poor, especially in North India where Cricket, Hockey, and individual sports like Boxing and Wrestling, overpower. A bit of geographical evaluation of the contribution of Indian sports will prove that It is Northeast India, which has been the nursery of budding footballers. Despite all odds, as ever been the characteristics of the sports personnel, the Indian footballers both men and women have paved the way to the heights possible.
Indian villages are generally known for non-women-friendly practices which often kill the dreams and aspirations of the little girls even before they have known anything. But a girl of Mugowal in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, not only dared to dream but kept the flames of her dream burning. A good omen entered her life in the form of her PT teacher at the Government School where her education was on. And Her Story began when the PT teacher took her to Mahilpur Football Academy voluntarily, not being able to restrict the skill sets of the little girl to only admiration.
Today, the name Manisha Kalyan is etched in the pages of Indian football stories forever. Manisha Kalyan created history by becoming the first Indian ever to play in the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) women’s champion league, one of the most prestigious football platforms in the world. she made her debut for Apollon Ladies FC, a club in Cyprus, against SFK Riga of Latvia in Engomi, Cyprus.
Manisha’s fight to climb the peak of football was very intense in all her under-17 camps. To her good fortune, Madurai-based Sethu FC came to her aid and gave her a chance to participate in the 2018-19 Indian Women’s League in which they were the Champions. Through rigorous hard work, Manisha waged her way into the Indian U-17 team that played the BRICS Cup in South Africa in July 2018.
Gokulam Kerala FC closely watched Manish’s performance and read a genius in making and roped Manisha into their club the very next season. Her contribution was immense for them too.
Post her teenage, Manisha has pages of success stories to tell besides being the first to one to be at UEFA, she was named Women’s Player of the Year 2021-22, and netted the first-ever Indian senior goal scorer against Brazil. She becomes the first Indian woman to score in the Asian Women’s Championship ever. She scored for Gokulam in a game against Bunyodkor, the champions of Uzbekistan’s top-tier Women’s Football league competition. It is all just the beginning of a legendary career.
However, the life and struggle of Manisha prove that pursuing a sport like a football is not easy for any girl in India. Most girls from rural areas still train themselves along with boys as Manish did. Of course, there may be advantages to it, but they are not spared of negatives from every quadrangle of life. The downfall of Indian women footballers has been caused by several reasons.
Patriarch society, lack of international exposure, lack of quality clubs and insufficient funds to name a few. It’s not only the story of football alone, but on every walk of life, many Indian middle-class families hardly support their daughters in sports. People question on dress and appearance, doubt their fidelity and much more. The mentality is not only hurting women’s sports in the country but acting as one of the biggest barriers to Indian girls’ sports life.
At the same time, it would be wrong not to mention that women athletes in India are not spared different harassment not just by coaches, but also by federation officials. Won’t it result in an even bigger impact on Indian Parents resulting in a severe reluctance to send their daughters to play sports at a professional level, for sure it will.
With immense struggle from family and hard work in the field to master their dreams lot of rural girls makeup to various levels and platforms. But the states and nation seem to be absent totally absent from these girls’ lives often. Getting a good club to play, travelling across countries for exposure and maintaining all expenses with funds are still a dream for many girls. While the Indian men’s football team is being lauded for their gutsy performance and glory, the women folk of the same skillset are considered least. Miles to go for the women footballers of India.