A group of girls changing the community life of a village through playing football – sounds quite sensational nevertheless a reality in a village called Rangatungi. It was like any other northern village of Bangladesh – calm and quite. Only boys used to play on the village ground which Hanna Hamrom, a young Santal girl at her early teen, could not take for granted.
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Hanna looks back, “We watched our boys play football on a ground. During a football competition, I told my maternal uncle that I want to play. First my uncle was a bit confused”.
Her uncle later discussed the matter with a school teacher. The teacher told them to bring all the girls to the ground who want to play.
The girls started playing from the next day. Initially they used to play wearing their regular clothing. After some days their teacher gave them shorts and jerseys. The girls were a bit shy to wear those.
“As boys also practiced in the field, first we felt uncomfortable in shorts. But with time we get used to it. Some people in our village used to poke us and say bad things”, recalls the girl.
Their teacher backed them and persuaded their parents to let them play. The girls continued playing and in the next few years, they played a number of tournaments in other districts. Last year, the team participated in under-14 national competition. They reached to the semi-final which they eventually lost though received a trophy fair-play. Then they became the champion in Rangpur division in this year.
The girls started playing football just because they loved it. They used to stay at home; now they travel to different parts of the country to participate in competitions. Local people now accepted the thing that girls play football.
Football has changed her life. She claims, “I am Santal girl who used to be very shy and didn’t mix with Bangali girls. Football has brought me close to other girls – Muslim, Hindu and we all play together now. We pass a great time on the field and became good friends.” They now feel being at the same page as many difference have erased.
Hanna thinks that sports like football is helpful to keep youth maintain a healthy life. She shares “I think football is a good habit. Earlier girls in our village used to do nothing or just talk over phone or indulge in some silly things. We now play football with the girls and boys of our village”.
Henna and others initially had no particular goal. Recently the girls have started dreaming big. The girls of Rangatungi United Women Football team now aspire to play for the national team.
Young Bangla, the largest youth forum in Bangladesh, has awarded Rangatungi United Women Football Academy as one of the top 10 youth initiatives. After receiving Joy Bangla Youth Award 2017, Hanna in her reaction said, “I thank Young Bangla for the award they are giving us. Young Bangla has given us the opportunity to tell our story to a big audience. Our team is very happy and grateful.” She also added that she expects that Young Bangla will support her team and other girls who want to participate in other sports.