17-year-old Odisha girl makes a mark in blind football, a goal at a time

She began interacting with the girls every day and during one such interaction, they asked her if she could become their goalkeeper.
Subhasmita Rout
Subhasmita Rout

Footballer Subhasmita Rout lost her coach in 2021 and last year, injured her knee during a game. She had almost given up before coming across blind football. Today, Subhasmita is the goalkeeper of State Women’s Blind Football team. Tanmay Das speaks to her about her journey

BHUBANESWAR: How can a visually-challenged person play football? This was the first question 17-year-old footballer Subhasmita Rout asked herself when she witnessed the game of blind football for the first time last year. Little did she know that within a few months, the same sport will give her a new life.
Subhasmita, who till a few months back was considering giving up on football due to a critical knee injury, will now be joining the national camp for the World Blind Football Championship.

Growing up, she saw her sister Susmita excelling as a yoga practioner who participated in several national events and won medals. “Seeing her, I was keen on winning medals. However, football caught my interest as I saw boys playing it outside our house at Unit-3 every day,” she recalls. She started playing with them but after a few days, her mother stopped her. “She was not very comfortable with the idea of me playing with boys bigger my age,” Subhasmita said.

One day when her father took her to Kalinga Stadium, she came across Nanda Kishore Patnaik, the famous football coach who is credited to have built Odisha women’s football team that won the Senior Women’s National Football Championship in 2011. Patnaik who was known for training girls from underprivileged families free of cost began training Subhasmita in 2013. Among the many tournaments she participated, Subhasmita represented Odisha in the national sub-junior football tournament-2019-20.

However, the last two years were extremely difficult. While Patnaik succumbed to Covid-19 in 2021, she suffered a major knee injury early last year which forced her to stop playing. “Doctors suggested knee operation but my family’s finances were at an all-time low due to the pandemic. My father’s garage had shut down a year after Covid struck,” she said.

Some of her friends helped her arrange the funds for the surgery and she was advised rest for six months. “When I first stepped out of my house after my surgery, I saw some girls playing football at the Satya Sai Women’s College here. I entered the ground and was surprised to find out that all of them were blind and their game was different too,” Subhasmita said.

She began interacting with the girls every day and during one such interaction, they asked her if she could become their goalkeeper. “I readily agreed because it seemed exciting,” said the player.Blind football, she said, is a fast-paced five-player game played by blind athletes and a sighted goalkeeper, using a ball having a noise-making device inside. Compared to the football for normal players, blind football is played on a smaller pitch within an enclosed court.

It was coach Trilochan Beura who trained her in this new format of football. “This was the new innings of my sports career. I had a notion that blind football would be easy but it wasn’t. However, it didn’t take me much time to learn the game. The best part about my team is that all of them are visually-challenged but they have no complaints about anything,” said the determined player who is now the goalkeeper of the State Women’s Blind Football team.

Last year, her team played the IBFF National 5-A-Side Blind Football which was held at Pune. Although Odisha could not make it to the podium, but Subhasmita was selected for the national camp at Kerala. This month, she has been selected by the Indian Blind Football Federation for national camp for the World Blind Football Championship to be held in the UK in August this year.

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The New Indian Express