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37th National Games: Small-town girls become backbone of West Bengal football team

Children of small town Jhargram, a small town in the South West region of West Bengal, seems to have become the main feeder of the West Bengal women’s football squad that is competing here in the 37th National Games.

What is more inspiring is the fact that despite their humble background -– their parents are either small-time farmers or do odd jobs -– the youngsters have unmatched zeal to play football.

At least 40 percent of the players in the first eleven that figured in West Bengal’s first-round match against Tamil Nadu on Friday here at Tilak Maidan are from Jhargram in the Madinapore district.

Tulsi Hemran, Mugli Hemran (not related to each other), Mamata Sing and Mamata Mahata were four players in the first eleven from Jhargram.

The girls proved to be hardworking and kept West Bengal’s hopes alive during the 90-minute exciting contest. West Bengal missed two golden opportunities to move the scoreboard against the resolute Tamil Nadu side and the contest ended in a goalless draw.

“We were hoping to collect full points, but just missed,” the 23-year-old Tulsi said in the post-match interaction.

Tulsi has been passionately involved in soccer since her school days and it has been more than a decade now. “I started playing football during my school days. There was support from the school. It allowed me to kick the ball around,” she said.

She added: “As a teenager, I saw Messi (the star Argentina soccer player) on the TV. He is my idol. I want to be great like him.”

To fuel their passion and support their parents, young soccer-playing girls have enrolled themselves under the West Bengal Police Department sports quota scheme.

Under the scheme, the promising footballers are entitled to a monthly stipend of Rs 9,000.

“Majority of the girls in Jhargram play soccer to escape poverty. The players might not get big money but whatever amount we get, it enables us to support our parents and continue to play football,” the 22-years-old Mugli said.

Mugli is also with the West Bengal Police Department though temporarily.

“I’m happy with what I’m earning. I invest some money back into football to purchase playing kits and give some money to parents.”

The youngsters also play in the women’s league and get additional funds. But meagre resources have never hindered their unmatched zeal to keep football alive, at least in Jhargram.

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