I have had a very happy day today, getting inspired.
On 13th July 2013 as India slept, a few tribal girls from the state of Jharkhand proudly held aloft a trophy they had won in their maiden entry in a football tournament in far-flung Spain. If that doesn’t sound like the first line of a sci- fi, don’t worry. You aren’t an Indian but that’s nothing to beat yourself over.
Hundreds of fire crackers lit the skies as the girls let lose their full- throated Vande Matarams, dressed in their traditional white saris with the red border, for being placed third in the Gasteiz Cup. The cup is the world’s best testing ground for teenage football in Victoria Gastiez, Europe’s Green Capital.
The team had been christened Supergoats. When they huddled together after the mandatory photo session, some wept inconsolably because they had almost given up hope to be able to participate in this tournament.
The seeming miracle was brought about by a Nepal based NGO called YUWA. The story of Yuwa began in Nepal, in 2005. They were formally established as an NGO in 2009. Yuwa is the Nepalese (and Hindi) word for youth. This NGO is for the youth and by the youth between 16-27 years.
In 2009, Yuwa arrived in India and zoomed in on the tribal girls of the state of Jharkhand. Why they chose Jharkhand and what they hope to achieve, is recorded here.
I had no idea something like Yuwa existed when I woke up in the morning today. It is so deplorably symptomatic of the times we live in. Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news takes forever and frequently misses us altogether. But for a share by a FB acquaintance, I might have remained blissfully unaware of this particular sunrise.
The selection and nurturing of Supergoats by Franz Gastler, executive director and founder of Yuva India Trust, is the stuff fairy tales are made of. Some of the twists in the story are recorded, most are not. I have an active imagination though, so I can fill in the colors.
I can imagine the way Yuwa would have been greeted when they first talked of their idea to train tribal girls- girls no one had ever thought of using for anything but housework or trafficking. Girls without voice, treated less than livestock. I can hear the guffaws; I can see the incredulous smirks.
These girls- no, not boys- were chosen to play football. FOOTBALL..!! Of all the…!!!
The task must have set new standards for being difficult. From the fact that India looks with a decidedly jaundiced eye upon any sport but men’s cricket; to the limited gear the team had; to the resistance from the parents; to the girls’ battle against their own conditioning…. all the way into their struggles to get a blessed birth certificate so they could apply for passport; the stories are nothing short of a miracle. Even fleetingly, are you wondering why nobody helped these girls instead of making things more difficult for them? I dare not even wonder, it opens up too many cans of worms for me.
The saga has been recorded by the intern Rose Thompson. Her post on the preparations of the team is inspiring, to say the least. She has given glimpses about life in tribal India with all their prejudices and restrictions. Her blog posts don’t talk too much about the struggles the team and their sponsors must have gone through, but we can guess, right?
The timeline of the whole operation as the Yuwa Facebook page tells it amazes me. Eight years flat…! Hundreds of lives impacted directly; thousands impacted indirectly and the entire human family given a shot of hope by raising the bar on what is possible when Yuwas decide to be the active voices- and hands- of change.
When I read that Yuwa Supergoats Donosti Team was chosen as much by peer ranking as by their coaches and that the teammates ranked each other based on 5 values: positivity, honesty, caring, selflessness and inspiring unity, I was truly moved. What an amazing value system, what an astounding way of nurturing team- spirit!
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel was not aware of the girls’ superlative achievement, nor was the country’s new sports minister Jitendra Singh. The powers that be slept, while the girls went ahead and made history anyway. Just like the sun rises each morning, undeterred and undismayed by the lack of spectators.
“We could not sleep that night (July 13)”, says Rinky Kumari, Captain of Supergoats- a girl who once bunked school to help her mother with household chores. Today, thanks to football, everyone knows her name in the village.
To her and her teammates, Yuwa has made a world of difference.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I have not benefited in any way by writing this, nor was I asked to write it.