Assam girls are 'bending it like Beckham'

Assam girls are

At a time when the country is in the grip of World Cup fever, a film brings out the inspiring tale of 40-odd girls from poor,

Guwahati: At a time when the country is in the grip of World Cup fever, a film brings out the inspiring tale of 40-odd girls from poor, agrarian families who are 'bending it like Beckham' in the hope that football will kick them out of drudgery.

"Soccer Queens of Rani" is about the passion of these girls from Rani area near here along Assam's border with Meghalaya. And they have to thank Hem Das, a veteran coach from here, who spends his own money to teach football to girls like them. Das had initially gone to the area in search of young boys interested in playing football, but found that more girls were in fact flocking to him to learn the sport.
While narrating the stories of the girls, the film also captures the socio-economic life of the area they come from, thereby trying to show how fruits of modern development have not been equitably reached all the people. The film's subject is also important in the context of North-East India, where football is a passion and states like Manipur and Mizoram and clubs like Shillong Lajong FC have excelled on the national scene.
The documentary by critic-cum-filmmaker Utpal Borpujari is made for Rajya Sabha Television. The 26-minute film was commissioned by RSTV channel as part of a series on developmental and inspirational stories of modern India. The girls come from poor, agrarian families from villages in the Rani area, which despite not being very far from Guwahati still lacks basic amenities like electricity.
The mother and a brother of one of the girls work in stone quarries to make ends meet. Another girl's father digs sand from the river to earn his family's household expenses. One od the girl's mother pulls a hand cart and sells snacks in the weekly local market.
"For these girls, football provides an outlet to go beyond their mundane lives, and as the film reveals, quite a few of them also see it as an opportunity to get a better life in the future. They walk or cycle several kilometres every day to practice football, which speaks volumes about their dedication. And they practice football in time they find after attending school and doing household chores," says Borpujari.
The film is also about the dedication of Das, an ex-Assam player who runs the Young Star Football Coaching Club. "Das spends a major portion of his earnings in going about 20 days a month to Rani to teach football to these girls, and even buying kits for them," says Borpujari. A number of these girls have made it to the state squads for Under-14 and Under-17 national school tournaments.
The film, apart from focusing on the story of aspirations of a bunch of young, underprivileged girls, also focuses on how individuals can play a role in giving shape to the nation's future, even if in small ways.
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