Did you even know there was a woman football player, Rashmita Patra? In most likelihood, none of us would have even heard about her. In a cricket crazy country, which is dominated by men, surely football and that too a woman player would hardly be heard about.
Well, till some years ago, Patra represented India in the football as a defender and has helped bring glory to the country. Like the tragic story of many star players across our country, abject poverty and complete neglect by the country drove her out of the game and this 23 year old footballer, who says, “football is in my blood”, now runs a betel shop or a paan shop in a small village, Atul, some 120 kms from Bhubaneshwar.
Daughter of a daily wage labourer, she started playing football at the age of 12. Soon two coaches Chitta Ranjan Patra and Pramod Patra spotted her talent and began training her. After participating in several state and national level tournaments, she donned national colours in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for under-16 women’s qualifier at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in 2008. In 2010, she helped Odisha win the national women’s football for under-19 in Cuttack. In 2011, she again played for India in senior AFC qualifying round at Dhaka and helped the country win an invitational series in Bahrain. She was also a member of the Odisha team that won the senior women’s football championship in Bhilai in 2012.
None of these achievements fetched her any monetary reward. She could not complete her matriculation because her Class 10 exam coincided with her camp for the AFC qualifier for Malaysia. And then in 2013, she got married to a man who had no fixed job. Today, with a baby in tow, she is works for a living, putting her dreams of a football player on the backburner forever.
This is such a typical story that many would have felt that “Oh we have heard this before!” but the question is – should we allow such talent to get wasted? Why can’t sports become a mainstream profession, why only circket? These are some of the questions which pop up in the mind when we read such tragic stories. But are there any answers?