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An emotional moment for friends and family as India wraps up U17 World Cup

Coach Anand Gope had earlier expressed his disappointment of not getting to watch his trainees Anita and Nitu play. But thanks to the efforts of the Jharkhand government, he reached in time to watch his wards take on Brazil.

An emotional moment for friends and family as India wraps up U17 World Cup

Coach Anand Gope (second from left) with friends and family members of Anita and Nitu


Tazeen Qureshy

Updated: 17 Oct 2022 4:55 PM GMT

When striker Neha missed an open chance in a one-on-one goalscoring opportunity with the Brazilian goalkeeper in the 36th minute, the front row in the VIP stands let out a big sigh.

"Kya kar rahi hai? Dribble kaun karta hai? Open Marti! (What was she thinking. She should have netted the goal instead of dribbling)," coach Anand Gope retorted from the stands.

It had been a long day for the coach and 12 others from Ranchi, who took a cab early in the morning and reached Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar only after the U17 match had started. But every moment was worth it. Two of his trainees Anita Kumari and Nitu Linda were playing India's last match at the U17 Women's World Cup, against Brazil.

"The tiredness was gone once we entered the stadium. This is an emotional moment for me as a coach. I feel this is a dream," Anand said.

The Bridge had spoke to Anand prior to the tournament, and he had expressed his disappointment on not making it to Bhubaneswar to watch the World Cup live. However, he got support from a Rajya Sabha MP and the Jharkhand government at the last moment and was able to watch the last match, reaching in the nick of time.

Besides, tickets were also sponsored for 11 members of Anand's team. Some of Anita and Nitu's friends also reached the stadium.

"Ek gareeb ghar ki ladki bhi football World Cup khel rahe hai. (A girl from an underprivileged background can also play the World Cup). Our family has struggled a lot but to see didi play, makes all of it worthwhile. I also play football and hope I can represent India like her someday," said Vinita, Anita's sister.

The elated Jharkhand contingent at the gates of the Kalinga Stadium ahead of the match against Brazil

Her mother, Asha Devi, who had initially objected to Anita playing football, was also in the stadium to watch a match for the first time.

'Acha lag raha hai, jeetne se aur acha lagta. (I feel happy, but would have been elated had India won matches)," she said.

For her friends and football mates, this is a moment of celebration.

"Back in our village, it is a moment of celebration. Everyone is glued to the television. Those who don't have TVs are making other arrangements. Sweets are being distributed. It's like a festival for us," said Neha Kumari, Anita's friend.

In the long run, they said, it would encourage more young girls to pick up the sport.

"It is a matter of great pride to watch Anita and Nitu play live. They have become a source of inspiration for all the other girls in the village. Now no one will ever say that girls shouldn't wear shorts and play," said Anshu Kashyap, who practices football with Anita and Nitu in their village.

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