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Social media sensation: Help pours in for Zomato girl Poulami Adhikari, but doubts linger

Poulami Adhikari is being offered help from many quarters, but she is unsure if this temporary attention will help her escape her poverty.

Social media sensation: Help pours in for Zomato girl Poulami Adhikari, but doubts linger
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Poulami Adhikari, former India U16 footballer, poses at her home with medals from bygone days (Special Arrangement)

By

Rajdeep Saha

Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 2023-01-14T12:37:55+05:30

Social media is a funny place. With a single click, it can take your life from nothing to everything. Former footballer turned Zomato delivery girl Poulami Adhikari has been at her current food delivery job for the past three years, but has now been deluged with offers of help after her video went viral.

In the latest development, the West Bengal sports department has come forward to help Poulami, the former India U-16 footballer. Sports minister Aroop Biswas has personally reached out to her, promising help.

"We have taken notice of the viral video and have started making arrangements so that Poulami can return to the field of play. We are trying to get her to take part in the Kanyashree Cup. She has also asked for some financial help, we shall be helping her as per the state government's protocol," an official from the WB department of youth services and sports told The Bridge.

As for Poulami, she is overwhelmed by the show of support from all quarters, but is doubtful about how long her story will stay on in public memory, or if at all public support can help her.

"I never expected my story would travel so far. The media is behind me now but this is only temporary. I don't think my problems will be solved with attention. My only hope is that the Chief Minister has heard of my plight and she will stand by me as I am one of Bengal's girls," she told The Bridge.

In the video which went viral, the 24-year-old was seen saying emotionally: "I have played national, international football. But when nothing came materialised, I had to take up something to earn a living. Therefore, I took up food delivery... Not just money, I never even got my due respect. What respect do women get anyway?"

She did not expect then how wide her story would travel.

Speaking on Saturday morning, she said, "The IFA called me yesterday, asking me to go and train in an academy in Barasat. But this is not as big a deal as it is being made out to be. I cannot leave my family in such a state to go play football. Rather than that, I'll prefer to return to my Zomato job."

'Why speak up now?'

It is not just the state government which has stepped in to help Poulami, the local football community has also stepped up.

Former national team captain Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar, while expressing some doubt as to the timing of the 'viral sensation', also said she had an offer she wanted to pass on to her, but was being unable to get in touch with her - possibly due to the media deluge she has been subjected to for the past few days.

Kuntala said, "It is good that she (Poulami) is getting the attention, and she should. But why speak up now? Why not come to us or the state association and ask for help?"

"I've spoken to the Director of the Balananda hospital and they are willing to offer her a job," Kuntala informed.

Responding to this information, Poulami replied that she is aware of the offer for a hospital job, but that it is unclear to her whether that job will give her benefits which shall be more than the food delivery job.

Paulami Adhikari has been working as a Zomato delivery executive since 2019, using her cycle to travel

Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar, the 1981 World Cup player, also reminded that this is not the first time a former national footballer has been rescued from a food delivery job. She spoke about Mohima Khatun, who had been the goalkeeper for the East Bengal women's team, but had to take up a job as a Flipkart executive to make ends meet during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

"Mohima came to me and we were able to help her get a job in Gujarat," Kuntala recalled.

The former player did indeed start a job as the goalkeeping coach at the Baroda Football Academy back in December 2021. The academy's website still features her as one of the coaches.

Isn't it time the authorities and sports federations take responsibility of athletes like Poulami and not wait for their real-life tribulations to be made into 30-second reels? After all, the internet, however rewarding it may seem at first, can be pretty unforgiving.

This is something Poulami knows full well.

"The media is behind me now to increase their TRP, but what will happen to me once they move on to the latest viral sensation? I will have to continue my struggles, I will have to continue being the backbone of my family with whatever job I get," she said.

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