By Soumo Ghosh,
AIFF Media Team
JAMSHEDPUR: Jamshedpur is often better known as the Steel City of India, housing one of India’s oldest and biggest steel-producing units. In fact, any mention of the city of Jamshedpur or the state of Jharkhand is often followed by its industrial capacity.
The industrial revolution of the city also paved the way for the beautiful game being taken forward together, with the Tata Football Academy bringing through a number of top footballers in the country.
Over the last couple of years though, another revolution has been brewing in the state of Jharkhand, one that looks to take Indian Women’s Football forward together with help from the Jharkhand Government and Tata Steel.
The Senior Women’s Team had been camped in Jamshedpur for five months last year, after which the city has played a host to the U-19 and the U-17 Women’s National Teams. On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, the city witnessed history as it hosted it’s first women’s International match, a SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship clash between India and Nepal.
“It was such a brilliant experience to finally play in an international game in my home state for the first time,” said Astam Oraon, who hails from the Banari village in the Gumla district of Jharkhand.
“I’d like to convey my sincere thanks to the Jharkhand Government and Tata Steel for all the help they provided to put the tournament together,” she continued.
Astam, who has been a part of the national team setup now, has played a number of international matches at the junior level, and has also been a part of the Senior Women’s Team camp. However, the feeling of walking out on the pitch, to represent India in her home state was rather more special for her.
“We were of course excited when we came to the ground, but when we walked out and the cheer went up all around us, and then the national anthem started playing, that was a really special feeling. I had goosebumps,” she recalled.
Along with Astam, five other girls from Jharkhand – Amisha Baxla, Anita Kumari, Purnima Kumari, Nitu Linda and Sunita Munda – have played crucial roles for the Young Tigresses in the matches against Nepal and Bangladesh.
Sunita, who hails from Jonha in Jharkhand, was also one of the players to get her name on the scoresheet in the first match against Nepal.
“It is certainly a motivating factor to play in front of the home fans from my state, and scoring a goal in front of them was just a different feeling,” Sunita, who has also been a part of the junior national teams setup for the past few years, expressed.
“I had scored six goals in the India jersey before in various games, but the one against Nepal will always remain special to me,” she said. “My father was also a footballer at the local level in his younger days, and he was so happy to see me score. This was my sixth, but most special goal in India colours.”
Nitu Linda, who came on from the bench in her first two matches against Nepal and Bangladesh, scored a goal each in both the games.
“It was an inspiring moment for me to play and score in front of my home crowd,” said Linda. “I hope more girls from my village, Haldama, see this and take inspiration that they can all make their headway in the sport. There were perhaps not as many opportunities before, but now, if you put in your hard work, you can go far as a female footballer.”
Amisha Baxla, who has been a constant menace for the opposition down the right wing, feels that the support from the stands help to spur her on.
“It was quite a different feeling to play in such a manner. The first 10-15 minutes, I was able to find a lot of space on the right and made a few runs, and I think the fans liked that, so they started cheering every time I got the ball,” said Amisha. “I had only heard before that players talking about such cheers giving you energy, but I experienced that first hand, and it’s quite enthralling.”
Anita Kumari, who has been a more recent joinee into the junior national team fold, was able to play her first ever junior international match on Tuesday, March 15, and went on to score a stunning 25-yard long ranger against the same opponents in the second match on March 21.
“I was very nervous after being told that I would be starting. This was my first ever match in an India jersey. But my teammates gave me a lot of support, and told me to just play like I always do,” she recalled. “They told me to play without fear. It did take me 5-10 minutes to get used to it, but then I felt much better and started playing my game. I am very thankful to the authorities that we could have such an experience.”
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