“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
That line from former Liverpool boss, Bill Shankly, sends shivers down any football enthusiasts’ spine. The passion of an entire sport compiled in two simple lines. And Shankly was a passionate man, much like the vast footballsphere in the modern day 21st century.
That quote could not be any more truer for the talented athletes of Dooars XI. In a country dominated by cricket, in a country dominated by a borderline misogyny society, to have a group of women to play the beautiful game, against all odds, against their elders’ wishes, against all ‘rules’ of conventional Indian society is quite a remarkable story.
While Indian football fans sit in the comfort of their homes following European football, complaining online about the lack of football in India, there’s a small fraction of footballers who no one bothers about. The young women and girls of Dooars XI have been following their dreams, with no infrastructure, no equipment, no footballs, but just passion.
One of the squad members of Dooars XI is Shakuntala Ahura. The experienced member of the squad who has played for the Indian National Team. Yes the Indian team that has been making waves in the sport, climbing to a World ranking of 50. Yet she sits with her coach Bhabani Munda, who has dedicated nearly two decades of her life to the sport, selling tea to raise funds for her club, to allow them to continue pursuing their passion. To allow them to be different from the millions of women in the country, to have the courage and determination to pursue their dreams. Shakuntala, the national team player, doesn’t even possess a football, she hasn’t been assisted by the administration in any form, but that doesn’t stop her.
It’s important that the country notes what these brave young girls are trying to do. It’s important that sports fans note the passion these girls are displaying.
The country has done well for itself in the cricketing field, with the national team and the domestic league. Football needs a similar boost, across all levels and across all genders. It would be wrong to paint a pretty picture and to hope for unreasonable dreams. Any form of a domestic league for women seems far from a reality, but simple tasks like infrastructure, administration and above all, encouragement, is achievable. These girls have won a number of accolades and are now looking for a little bit of help.