KENDRAPARA:As the country basks in the glory of organising the FIFA Under-17 Football World Cup, three International women footballers of Aul in Kendrapara district spend their days in oblivion and penury.Despite bringing laurels to the country and the State, Sinulata Sahoo, Tikina Samal and Kausalya Barik have been left to languish in poverty.
Sinulata Sahoo (21), of Kantipur village under Aul block, participated in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-19 women’s football championship in 2014 at Vietnam. In 2015, she also represented India Under-19 AFC women’s football championship at Amman in Jordan.
Similarly, Tikina Samal (21) of Mulasahi and Kausalya Barik (21) of Lokapada also represented India in Under-19 AFC championships in Vietnam and Jordan. Tikina was also a member of India’s senior women football team during the Asia Cup qualifier in Palestine in 2014. In 2009, Kausalya represented India in Under-14 Girls Festival of Football at Colombo in Sri Lanka.
Their success, however, was cut short as financial constraints got the better of them. Without any job or financial support, these three women have been leading a miserable life in mud-walled thatched houses.
Sinulata says, “My father works as a daily wager and his earnings fail to feed our family of five. Our three-room thatched house is on the verge of collapse.”
Sinulata could not appear for her HSC examination in 2009 as she was selected to attend the India Under-16 camp in Kerala. “I sacrificed my education for football. But now, my poor educational background has become an impediment to getting a job,” rues Sinulata who is a noted stopper.
Similar is the tale of Tikina. She says, “My father died 15 years back leaving behind my mother to fend for herself and four kids. My widowed mother runs a small grocery shop in the village to sustain the family.”
“I have won many medals at State, national and international levels. But what did I get in return? Without a job and financial support, all the medals I won have no meaning for me,” says Tikina, a famed goalkeeper.
Tikina passed her matriculation exams in 2010. Though numerous assurances of a job were given to her by politicians, bureaucrats and sports officials, all these turned out to be hollow.Kausalya’s father runs a saloon in the village and with all his earnings, finds it difficult to provide a comfortable life to his family.
“Despite having cleared the Plus-Two exams, the Government refuses to provide me any decent job. Lives of many sportspersons in the State have been ruined by the slipshod attitude of the Government,” says Kausalya, top-class midfielder.
Coach of these women footballers Susanta Kumar Mallick says, “ As Odisha has a history of forgetting its sports heroes, the struggles of promising women footballers should not come as a surprise. At least 30 girls from Aul have represented India in football tournaments at sub-junior, junior and senior levels. But only 17 players have got jobs, most of them in other States.”The coach warned that Odisha may lose talented women footballers as many are all set to leave the State in search of a better life elsewhere.