Despite trials and tribulations that came their way, four girls from Gatti Rajoke, a border village in Gujarat, won gold in kabaddi at the state-level championship. At Barnala, the championship was held from December 19-22.
Almost all of the girls’ parents are daily wage earners. It took immense courage for the girls to overcome all obstacles. Their struggles ranged from poverty to gender discrimination.
Dr Satinder Singh, principal of the government school where the girls study, said that initially their parents were reluctant to send them to school and let alone participate in sports like kabaddi.
The eight girls had originally started playing in the village, but four gave up due to pressure, while the four girls, Anju, Gagandeep Kaur, Pooja Rani and Lakhwinder Kaur, continued despite criticism from family and friends. Due to the lack of training and ground facilities in the village, they had to travel almost 17 km every day.
Despite my parents’ initial reluctance, Anju’s elder sister urged them to allow her to continue her passion for kabaddi.
Our family consists of four sisters. My father had difficulty affording Rs 60 for my daily travel. My pocket money was used to cover travel expenses, however, after I convinced him,” said Pooja.
“I used to get up at 4 a.m. and run and exercise until 7:30 a.m. I then went to school and later, after recess, we went to the stadium,” recalled Lakhwinder, adding that in the past, the villagers called names and mocked us, but now they admire us.
My father, who is also a daily wagerer, used to ask me to focus more on household chores after my mother died two years ago.
Traveling in an auto-rickshaw to the stadium and dealing with daily challenges were not easy for the girls. Satinder said they overcame the adverse circumstances through sheer determination and strong will. Their parents, who previously discouraged them from participating in sports, are now praising them.
My expectations were met and the girls performed well. It is also true that the girls worked very hard, and I am hopeful that they will bring a gold to the national games too,” said Avtar Kaur, the girls’ coach.
In her opinion, the administration and others should assist these budding athletes in any way they can.
This squad consisted of 11 girls representing the district. In addition to the four girls, six others were from Guruharsahai, while one was from the city,” Gagan Matta, the District Sports Officer, said.