AUL: Cradle Of Women Football In India
The story of women football team’s success in Odisha has its beginning in villages, where football has not lost its sheen to other sports. Tucked away 25 kilometres from the district headquarters in Kendrapara, Aul block is now the nursery of some of India’ s women footballers, like Sasmita Mallick, who was the first footballer from this village to have played an international tournament in 2002 after representing sub-junior India team.
The famous nine international women footballers- Gayatri Mallick, Sashmita Mallick, Suprava Samal, Sangita Patra, Shardhajali Sahoo, Rasmita Patra, Kausalya Barik, Alochana Senapati and Bijoylaxmi Sahu are all from the Aul region of the district. Sasmita Mallick is now the vice-captain of the Indian team.
It was in 2001, when Women Football Federation Cup was organised in Aul and others parts of the state, boosting the morale of these players.
“Football is a passion for Aul people. Girls in this area are interested in this popular sport. Many families here take pride in churning out a football player,” points out Debendra Sharma, the former vice-president of state women football association and former chairman of Aul block.
Beginning with Sasmita Mallick who represented India in the 2002 Asian Women Football Championship in Iran, the village used to be proud of nine international footballers, over 32 national and scores of university and college-level players.
“We have full-time coach and the villagers pay him Rs 3000 every month. We have several times urged the authorities to provide a permanent job to coach Chitaranjan Patra, who passed the coaching examination from National Institute of Sports, Kolkata. But, the authorities are yet to provide him any salary,” said Sharma.
“The youngsters play on a ground that is owned by the Aul high school. After some girls played for India and visited many countries, many parents of young players want their wards to be football players,” said Samita Mallick, who played for India in Dhaka in the SAF games two years back where Indian women football team had won gold medal. Alochana Senapati of Aul also represented India in the SAF game in Dhaka. In the sports hostel in Bhubaneswar, many budding girl players are being imparted coaching. Most of them are drawn from the villages.
“Aul has already earned the name of cradle of women’s football in the region. Despite representing India, women footballers are yet to find any suitable jobs. But, anyone interested in women football knows where to find the location of “Aul” in the map of Orissa,” said Gayatri Mallick, who did postgraduation in physical education and represented India several times.
“I have been running from pillar to post to get any job since three years,” added Gayatri.
In the afternoon, parents in Aul, it is said, hate the sight of girls within the four walls of the home. Mothers turn them out with football and shoes into village ground. When they return, they get their milk in big glasses, but not before they tell their mothers about their skills on the playing field.
Today no big tournament in country is complete without the presence of Aul football girls in action. Thanks to these girls, Odisha has already emerged as national champions in sub-junior and junior categories by defeating Manipur. The state has been runners-up thrice in the National Women Football championship. Last year, Odisha girls were champions under-
19 national football championship in Cuttack.
But even the good women footballers find it hard to get a suitable job. Sasmita Mallick, vice-captain of women football team, was compelled to leave the state last year after she failed to get any job. Though herself an ace player winning several laurels for the state and the country, she finall got a job on a monthly salary of Rs 22,000 in the East Central railway in Bihar. Women football team of Odisha had won gold medal in National Game in 2011 in Jamshedpur under her leadership.
At least ten girls from Aul has represented India in football. But all are running from pillar to post to get any job. Needless to say, Odisha will lose many talented women footballers to other states, if they fail to get suitable jobs.
By Ashis Senapati from Kendrapara