“Football is much more than a game for all of us, it’s more like a binding force which holds our society together when everything else goes awry”, thus exclaimed Sanatombi, manager of the Chanambam Thambou Higher Secondary School, Imphal which made it through to the final of the Subroto Cup Girls Football Tournament here in Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium.
The sentiment conveyed above is a persistent one; women from the state derive inspiration and have forever excelled in a multitude of sporting events around the country and beyond. Stalwarts like Bem Bem Devi, Bala Devi and the much famed MC Mary Kom have set the trend for Santombi’s girls who followed up a string of impressive performances earlier in the tournament to scrape past Sports School from Kohima, Nagaland to advance through a penalty shootout in the pulsating semi-final today.
Talking about their inspired run so far, the former state level footballer added, “Even though our girls are slightly younger, we have been doing really well. The first match when we scored 27 goals against IPSC Karnataka and even the quarter-final when we beat Telengana 10-0, that really set the tone and as you can see, we haven’t looked back since.”
The girls from Imphal though will be presented with a different kind of challenge in the final in two days time. Their opponents, Government Senior Secondary School hail from Alakhpura in Bhiwani, Haryana. For a bunch of girls who hail from the state which has the lowest sex ratio in our country and is drenched in patriarchy, to produce such inspiring performances is incredibly inspiring indeed.
They haven’t just overcome their opponents, most notably another team from Manipur NCC School from Imphal 3-2 in extra time today, they have also brushed aside the off-field hurdles which have constantly tried to obstruct their growth and curb their aspirations.
“It’s an incredible feeling! We never thought our girls could pull this off, especially since most of them come from families which don’t quite encourage girls stepping out of their homes, leave aside harbour ambitions of playing at such a massive stage,” said a parent who for some reason wished to be not named.
The upbringing might have been different for the teams which take the field on the 29th, but as the gent duly stated, both set of girls will be driven by a strong and distinct sense of ambition, that of lifting the 4th edition of the Subroto Cup Girls tourney.