It was 27th of November when Ms Afsana, the founder of ‘Pehchaan Live Foundation’ received a message inviting her young brigade of football players over to the Capital to compete in a United Nations hosted tournament scheduled to start in the next four days. Her mind reeled with excitement on being the only NGO from the entire country to have been invited for the event, but there was the anxiety too.
‘How are we to make all the arrangements to travel to Delhi on such short notice?’, was the first thing that struck home. The other pressing factor was that the girls belonged to the underprivileged and marginalised section of the society and did not have the right sports gear to help them in the tournament.
The hurdles seemed never-ending, but the determination of Ms Afsana and her team of 16 girls was enough to ensure that with the right blend of grit and passion and a dash of talent, dreams can be transformed into reality. Things slowly started falling into place when people recognised the cause and supported in whatever way they could to ensure the goal doesn’t die.
Likewise, the girls of Pehchaan went ahead and not only competed in a tournament where only public schools were involved but also made sure they won every match and conjured sheer magic to bring the championship trophy home!
But was this journey easy and as seamless as it sounds? No. This victory isn’t any other ordinary everyday victory in the calendar; it’s magnanimous because the triumph of these girls is perhaps the most beautiful celebration of raw and potential talent from a sphere that lacks ‘pehchaan’ in reality.
Even when the invite had come, Ms Afsana had to fight battles at home to finally arrive in Delhi; the journey was never smooth. “Over here in Bihar, people don’t even understand what the UN is. They do not understand the honour it means to get invited because they lack the exposure. I faced a lot of difficulties in trying to convince the parents of all the girls to allow them to travel with me to the tournament,” narrates Ms Afsana.
Coming from a state like Bihar where women still have to think twice before stepping out alone after sundown, especially a little towards the suburbs and rural areas, the fear factor of the parents is not entirely unjustified when it comes to their concerns about the adolescent girl child. However, the dynamism and vision of Ms Afsana had already infiltrated the minds of the young and talented athletes with vibrant dreams burning in their eyes.
The tournament began on 2nd December 2018 and right from the first match, the girls of Pehchaan made a substantial impact when they won the game with a baffling 6-0 performance vs Bal Bharati Model School in Pritampura!
In fact, this particular match was stopped before full-time because of how one-sided it was.
— United Nations India (@UNinIndia) December 7, 2018
The successive events proved no different where the girls continued to produce a dominant game by winning every match to nil goals from the opposition.
The course of the tournament wasn’t very smooth either because not every team knows how to be gracious even in defeat and the brilliant success of the Pehchaan girls were not regarded in the proper light as it should have been by the other team coaches. However, instead of letting the mild snubs and jeers deter their spirit, the girls stayed firm in their focus.
“When they told me people have been saying stuff about them, I asked them to answer back with their game and only by winning the tournament could a proper answer be shot back,” reveals an ever-optimistic Ms Afsana. The finale proved to be a nail-biter against Model School, Vasanth Vihar with the scorecard reading 5-3 in favour of the Pehchaan girls who captured the trophy right from the school’s home ground.
UPDATE: With your help, we have successfully raised Rs 30,000 for them.
The NGO is just 15,000 short of their goal.
Do reach out in any way possible.https://t.co/FnO9Aenhug
— The Bridge (@TheBridge_IN) December 1, 2018
The victory had been a long-awaited one, and it not only comes as just a tournament victory but so much more. “Everything fell into place at the right time, I think. It’s all so surreal now. This is such a big win for us. So many people had stepped in to help us and supported our journey, and we cannot be more grateful to them,” gushed Ms Afsana, apparently overwhelmed with the recent support she has been receiving to ensure the dreams of the young and talented girls do not die.
Going forward, there are even more plans to be looked into now that the hunger for winning has stirred. “They’ll need a proper diet plan, a good field to play in..the one they practice it is not suitable for it’s not even at all and not grassy either. They will also need good practice kits too,” remarks the powerhouse of a woman who has led from the helm all this time.
After fighting all the odds- both social and financial and emerging victorious on the field is all that ensures the victory, though hard-fought was a sweet one, but there is also a long, long road ahead to traverse and countless battles remaining to be won.