Another ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ , this time from Maharashtra

Another ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ , this time from Maharashtra
Jalna girl selected to play in World Cup Football of a different kind in South America
Mumbai | Jalna : July 31, 2014

Jalna girl Rohini Pashte has been selected to represent India at the Homeless World Cup Football in Santiago, Chile this October. It’s indeed a matter of great pride for 12-year-old who has come a long way from her village of Pithori Shirasgaon in Ambad block of Jalna district. .. 

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The differences between Pithori Shirasgaon and the Chilean capital could not be starker. While Rohini’s village is home to a mere 2000 people, Santiago, with 6.3 million population is among the prosperous cities of Latin America.
No girl from Jalna has ever travelled to South America. Rohini Pashte will be the first to make the 14,300-kilometre-long journey from Maharashtra’s Marathwada region to Chile. This will also be the first time she will be travelling by airplane - something the pre-teen or, for that matter, anyone in her family and village had ever dreamed.
What makes Rohini’s accomplishment all the more striking is that she comes from a region that is notorious for the continued prevalence of a practice that was outlawed over 80 years ago: child marriage. It is still common for girls in Marathwada to be forced to drop out of school and be married off by their 13th birthday. Many die prematurely during childbirth. In fact, Rohini’s elder sister was married off at the age of 14. This was due to a social mindset that views girls as liabilities and doesn’t privilege their rights or education. Needless to say, the sister’s fate was also sealed by poverty.
The Pashtes are a poor family, leading a hand-to-mouth existence. They own a 2-acre plot of land. Rohini’s father died some years ago and the onus of earning a livelihood fell on their mother. She works as a daily wage labourer on other farmers’ fields, earning a meagre sum of Rs 70-100 per day, well below the minimum wage.  Working from dawn to dusk, the mother could not give her children as much attention as she wanted, let alone their education. So Rohini’s grandfather took her brother under his care to secure his right to education. But Rohini, being a girl was left behind. Her mother made her drop out of school in class 4 to work alongside her in the field to make ends meet. But this didn’t diminish the young girl’s desire to go to school.
One day Rohini’s uncle mentioned that a new school had opened in Ambad: the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, a government-supported, NGO-run boarding school where education, food, clothing, bedding and medicines are provided free of cost to underprivileged girls from disadvantaged communities-girls like Rohini.
At first, Rohini’s mother was sceptical about sending her daughter to a school 30 kilometres away, as she herself had never set foot outside their village. But when she heard that the school would provide her daughter all the facilities free of cost, she decided to send Rohini there. And this proved to be a turning point in the young girl’s life!

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Recalling her early days at KGBV, teachers say she was a shy and reticent. Rohini felt overwhelmed by her new surroundings and peers. She kept to herself and barely managed to keep up in the classroom. But it was in the field of sports that she showed her potential. which was rightly spotted by the sports teacher Rafiq Sheikh. He encouraged Rohini to participate in every game. He also introduced her to Radha Shinde, an older student and budding sportsperson. “Radha is like an elder sister to me. With her guidance I was able to perform both in the classroom and the playground” says Rohini.  
Initially, Rohini took part in only Kho kho and track events . Then when she watched Radha playing football, she felt inspired and followed in her footsteps. Soon Rohini began to excel in the sport that required magic feet..
“After joining KGBV, I received quality training in sports. In our school both studies and sports are given equal importance. I love sports so much that I don’t feel like going home during the vacations. I feel like staying back in school to practise”, Rohini chuckles.
It has been four years since Rohini began playing football and Kho kho. She has represented the school at various competitions across the state. Rafiq Sheikh makes it a point to ensure that the girls participate in every inter-school competition to gain exposure and confidence. “He tells us before every match that no matter how small the villages we come from, we can outshine any school, in any sport if we practise hard and play well. This motto is engrained in our minds,” says Rohini. When Rohini goes back to her village for the holidays, she gathers all the girls together to impart sports training. At first, this didn’t go down well with many, including Rohini's mother, who believed, “It doesn’t look nice for girls to be so boisterous and play football.” But ever since Rohini got selected to play internationally, the mood and mindset towards sports in Pithori Shirasgaon had gradually changed. Posters have been put up around the village congratulating Rohini on her success.
It is this “yes, we can” spirit that saw Rohini’s team winning the Panchayat Yuva Krida aur Khel Abhiyan, held in Jalgaon in 2013 under the initiative of Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs. It was at this event that a representative from Slum Soccer spotted Rohini and signed her up. Slum Soccer is a non-profit organisation that reaches out to the homeless, slum-dwellers and disadvantaged children from villages, using football as a tool for social empowerment. At a football event organised by Slum Soccer in Nagpur, Rohini was selected to represent India in Santiago, Chile. There she will meet, interact and play football with 500 children from 64 participating nations from around the world.

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About the Homeless World Cup
The Homeless World Cup was founded by Mel Young from Scotland and Harald Schmied from Austria, who came up with the idea at a conference on homelessness, in Cape Town in 2001. They both believed that it was possible to “change the lives of homeless people through football” and two years later in 2003, the first Homeless World Cup tournament took place in Graz in Austria.
The Homeless World Cup uses the power of football to energise homeless people so they can change their own lives. It supports grass-roots football programmes and social enterprise development via a network of 70 national partners and celebrates its work by organising an annual football tournament that unites teams of homeless people from countries all around the globe.
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