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Bend it like Beckham or like Dulad of Jharkhand?

Dumka , Mon, 07 Mar 2011 ANI

Dumka, Mar 7 (ANI): The fever was at a high pitch; the moment was exhilarating. The event was a women's football match at the National Games held in Jharkhand between Haryana and the home state. In front of a packed cheering crowd at Birsamunda Stadium at Ranchi, Dulad Marandi, a young tribal girl from Dumka scored a spectacular round of four goals, which led her team to a win.


In Dulad"s village Kodokhicha, in the tribal dominated picturesque Santhal paragana, the mood was of exhilaration. It was almost as if there was a festival going on. Enthusiastic villagers had gathered in the temple complex to celebrate. Except for one missing link; they could not be part of the live action.


No one in this owned a television set let alone have the required channel, which telecast the game! For millions of sports fans across the urban and much of rural areas where the ubitiqous TV has penetrated, this scenario is akin to the dark ages.


In a sense the term "dark ages" is applicable in more ways than one in Kodokhicha village. It is one of the spots on the Jharkhand map where electricity has not yet reached. Yes in independent India, poised on an economic growth trajectory and committed to ensuring social justice as enshrined in the Constitution, such black dots still exist.


Yet it is from one of these dark spots, that talent has burst forth. And Dulad"s spectacular performance had not only the village but also the state and beyond riveted. And despite all the negatives of being a remote tribal village, where development as a whole lags behind, a star is born.


No, there was no television set to watch, but that did not dampen spirits. Instead village Kodokhicha woke up the next morning to the newspapers, which splashed the story of the win and lauding the role of the daughter of the village, Dulad!


Dulad"s father Dhatu Marandi eyes brimming over with joy allowed the moment to sink in, his heart swelling with pride, his voice choked with emotion. He recounted how his young daughter, the passion for the game blazing within her, was undeterred by the fact that there were no girls in the village to play football with. Instead she join the boys in the field who had a grudging awe for her game, her strikes which left them envious, yet popular.


Here it was the social harmony of tribal society in display and there were no whispers from any quarter of the "girl going astray".


Infact the reason the boys would at times be reluctant to play with her was not for because of any "social" taboo but simply that she was too good for them! Even in the uneven, roughly maintained village ground, it was apparent that this was a champion in the making.


A sense that was wholly vindicated at the National Games at Ranchi. Infact her teammates were part of the crowd cheering and rooting for Dulad at the village common on the day. Some of her teachers remember Dulad"s fiery spirit. Her primary school teachers Pushpa Marandi and Rajeev Soren were over the moon with the win.


Yet behind each win is a period of struggle and in this case, it was not one only of conquering the game. Like many of the stars who made India proud at the Commonwealth Games, Dulad"s has been a humble, even impoverished background.


Amongst a large family of five girls and three boys, she is number three. Having lost her mother, who died early for lack of medical treatment simply because they were too poor, it has been her father who has struggled to raise his family working the fields as agricultural labourer. They have seen hard days; Poverty has been part of their lives.


Living in their two-room "kuccha" mud house covered with thatch, they have been bereft of basic facilities, which should be the right of all citizens in this country, rich or poor, urban or rural, tribal or non- tribal. That a child in these "unserved" or "underserved" areas has shown promise despite these lacunae is indeed laudable.


Indeed this is what needs to be nurtured. Across rural India there may be hundreds if not more Dulads waiting to be discovered and shine in many sporting events. But the edifice of policies and sports institutions in our country is simply not geared to trace them, let alone nurture them. It is left to a stroke of good fortune or sheer chance for this talent to blaze through.


Notwithstanding all of this. The joy in this tribal pocket is undiminished. Her football coach Father Sylvanyus at the Misson School, Shikaripara, Dumka is elated. He had noticed her potential watching her play and introduced her to the nuances of the game, turned his attention and hers to mastering some of her moves.


Dulad"s selection into the state-level coaching Centre at Hazaribagh in 2008 was really the starting point for the training. It was here that Dulad"s mettle showed and was honed along with other tribal girls from the region. Dulad"s achievement goes far beyond the four goals scored in National Games and victory for her team. Her"s is a victory for the spirit, the passion, the belief in one"s dreams to excel despite all odds. And in this case, the odds were not related to the game but to the environment, which surrounded her.


The penury, the utter lack of facilities, the lack of resources for a good quality of life, let alone the resources required to groom a star; this is what Dulad inherited. This is what makes the victory, a life-affirming one for Dulad, her father Dhato and indeed the entire village of Kodokhicha.


There is no dearth of talent. It needs political will and resources to uncover it and nurture it. According to Charkha Development Communication network, let hope and the passion to excel kindle in the hearts of many Dulads and let many villages like Kodokhicha dance with joy. By Shailendra Sinha (ANI)


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