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MANGALURU: “When it comes to girls’ football, it is always Mangaluru that rocks. Most of the players representing Karnataka state at the national level are from this city,” says Deepthi Thangamma from Canara College while her teammate Simran Diksha D’Souza nods. Both sweating profusely after a fiery match against St Aloysius College which won the trophy at the Independence Day Cup tournament being held at Nehru Maidan since July 22. The boys’ final is on August 15.
Altogether 210 teams — higher primary, high school, PU and college teams — are battling for the trophy. And, 28 of them were in girls category, a handsome number for the competition.
The history of football in Mangaluru dates back to the colonial era with Portuguese and English ruling the coastal town. The football ground at Nehru Maidan is more than 100 years old and Dakshina Kannada District Football Association itself is more than 60 years old. After the colonial rulers left, the football legacy continued with local people.
Girls’ football blossomed in Mangaluru two decades ago when three to four prominent colleges started pitching their teams for the Independence Day Cup and it slowly spread to schools and PU colleges. “Educational institutions played a key role in promoting girls’ football. Many local girls started playing and we have more than a dozen national players in all categories. When it comes to football, Dakshina Kannada leads in the state,” says D M Aslam, president, Dakshina Kannada District Football Association.
“I have been playing football for the last four years and my parents have been a big support,” says Charis Noronha, studying Class 10 at Cambridge School. Her coach, Leelavathi B K, agrees. “Parents as well as educational institutions, support the game among girls in Mangaluru,” she says.
Santosh Mascarenhas from St Joseph’s School at Bajpe opines that there is enormous talent among the girls in Mangaluru and Dakshina Kannada.
“In the last ten years, pockets in Mangaluru like Bajpe and Kulashekar have become football hubs for girls,” says Arun D’Souza, coach of St Aloysius College. Educational institutions like Sacred Heart, St Joseph’s and St Aloysius have become big names for girls’ football.
Apart from nurturing local talents, these institutions have been patronising girls from other part of the state also. Seetha, Sunitha, Jyothi, Akshatha and Mahadevi are from Sirsi in North Karnataka. “We were spotted by the Principal of St Joseph’s School while playing a match with a team from Andaman-Nicobar, and we have been given all support. After schooling, St Aloysius College has taken us in and we are representing the college,” the girls say.
However, it is not so rosy down the lane as the girls don’t enter professional football after their studies. “Most of the school teams disintegrate when they go to colleges without a football team. Many institutions don’t have so much space for football either,” says Avinash S K, physical education teacher at St Aloysius Gonzaga School.
Besides, many girls from some communities don’t continue playing after their high school. “We observe a lot of talent among the girls from these communities but getting them into the team is a real challenge as parents don’t agree,” says a coach. Raziya (name changed) is a goalkeeper for a school team but she struggles to convince her family to allow her to play. “They are not happy about my football. But they tolerate because I am adamant,” she says.
“From three to four teams, we have more than 20 girls’ teams playing in Mangaluru. We are optimistic that girls’ football in Mangaluru will continue growing as there are many chances for them to get selected for national teams under various age groups. Besides, institutions like Yenepoya have started forming professional girls’ football teams,” says Aslam.
Independence Day Cup - Mangaluru
8 teams participated at higher primary level. Morning Star School, Bajpe lifted the trophy while Yenepoya
12 teams participated at the high school level. St Joseph's School, Bajpe won the tournament while Cambridge School was runner-up
6 teams participated at the PU & College level. St Aloysius College won the trophy while Canara College was runner-up
36 teams participated at higher primary school. Morning Star School is the winner and Manipal School was runner-up
68 teams are participating
at the high school level and 38 teams at PU colleges
and 62 teams participating at the college level
Finals of high school, PU colleges, and colleges scheduled on August 15