Forced to eat boiled rice, Anita Kumari selected to represent India in FIFA world cup

Born as a Jharkhand native to a poor family, Anita Kumari has made it to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Camp. As she reaches her goals she renumerates the various challenges she had to face in her sports career in India.

Her father is a drinker, and her mother works as a labourer. Her family is so impoverished that they can only eat ‘mad bhaat,’ which is fermented rice. Her poverty, lack of good nutrition, athletic equipment, and facilities added to her problems.

Anita is a skilled football player but she too bore the burnt of her patriarchal community. despite receiving a lot of flak from her villagers, she has been playing football for the past eight years.

The villagers couldn’t comprehend why Anita was playing an apparent “male sports” in shorts. To stop her, they put glass fragments on the ground to further deter her from playing. but Anita always stood up against misogyny.  

“The entire community wondered why she was playing so much football and kept insisting that she should be studying instead,” Asha Devi said when asked about the locals’ criticism. But she should have gone out and played football rather than stay at home and do housework.”

“(Villagers) used to question us why we’re wearing ‘half-pant’ like boys, why we kept going to play football, and at the spot, we’d go to practice, they’d hurl pieces of glass and everything else they could find at us,” Vinita, Anita’s younger sister and fellow footballer, said.

Despite this, she was chosen as one of the 33 girls to attend the national coaching camp in Jamshedpur for the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup team.

“Anita is a very serious player. Through her dedication and hard work she managed to make it to this level”, said her coach Anand Prasad Gope, who trains 300 kids, mostly girls free of cost.

“Despite our dire financial situation, I nevertheless managed to educate all five of my daughters and marry three of them.” Anita is my fourth daughter,” Anita’s mother, Asha Devi, explained.

16 countries will participate in The FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2022. It will take place between 11 and 30 October at three Indian venues: Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Nehru Stadium in Margao, and D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.

Anita’s chances of being finalised in the 23-member team for the main competition are questionable but it is commendable that she has gotten this far without proper assistance and opportunities. 

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Shreya Pal
Shreya is an avid lover of Russian movies. She wishes to be a script writer.