A generic trend in India suggests that parents of most girl child feel apprehensive about letting their daughters take part in any sort of sporting activity, let alone football.
But the people of Shondanga, a remote village near Nabadwip in West Bengal, feel the other way. Bhupendranath Pal, a retired banker and an avid football enthusiast, two years ago, made an effort to bring in girls to the football field defying all prejudices.
Since then, a project which started with just four young girls, has grown from strength to strength to gather 56 youngsters within less than two years.
"I always wanted to use football as a tool to have a sociological impact. Thanks to All India Football Federation, the Golden Baby Leagues have presented us with a perfect opportunity to make a strong connection with every single person in our society. That's why I strongly felt to introduce football to our locality, especially to the younger girls," Pal said while speaking to the www.the-aiff.com
The AIFF D-license holder shared a never-heard-before tale while discussing Nabadwip Golden Baby Leagues which has already introduced more than 1,000 kids in two years.
"One day, while I was training a few kids, I oversaw four young girls gazing at us and enjoying the game. I asked them whether they were interested to join us. But they felt shy and ran away," he said.
"After 15-20 minutes they came back and that's when the girls' league saw the daylight - just with four girls. They kept on coming as found the zeal. They found a purpose. We inspired them and the leap of faith played a big role behind expanding the league. Now fifty-six girls are playing in that league," Pal added.
There are five age-group leagues for girls of U-7 to U-10 and U-14. Whereas three teams comprising of seven players apiece contest the U-14 age-group, five teams of seven players each are enrolled in the other age-groups.
In 2017-18, 600-odd kids participated in four age-groups. 23 teams enrolled in the U-13 age-group alone. Next year, the participation of girls spiralled significantly, taking it to 25 per cent of the total enrolment cumulatively.
"Earlier parents were sceptical about sending them to play football. What I realised -- if they find the personal touch and sense of security, they don't think twice to allow their wards. That's a big lesson I learnt from these families, who don't belong to well-to-do families but endure the struggle 24/7, called life," Pal said.