The girls from Ranisangkail of Thakurgaon, one of the remotest places in the country, have conquered all the odds
They did not only have the social obstacles but also had the threat of poverty, child marriage and the scarcity of instruments in order to become footballers.
But the girls from Ranisangkail of Thakurgaon, one of the remotest places in the country, have conquered all the odds.
They are now transcending their dreams to represent Bangladesh in the international arena and building careers as footballers.
Till date, as many as six players have been called up for different age-level national teams.
Sohagi Kisku and Munni Akter Aduri are currently featuring in the Bangladesh U-16 side while Bithika Kisku, Kohati Kisku, Kakoli Akter and Shabnur have been called up to the camp of the Bangladesh U-15 side.
It was initially unthinkable for them to even take to the field with a football as the scene of girls playing with half pants was considered most awkward in the locality.
But, the success of some indomitable girls transformed the mass psychology and perspective and from being a forbidden act, women’s football has become a symbol of inspiration and pride.
Principal Tajul Islam, a sports lover, led from the front to orchestrate this transformation.
He established Rangatungi Women’s Football Academy with his personal initiatives at a distant area, 40kms away from the district city, for the girls of the low-income families.
These girls became the champion of the Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib Gold Cup in the district level several times, before being triumphant in the division level and runners-up twice in the national level.
Some of the players were qualified to get admitted in the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Pratishthan, but failed to do so due to lack of money.
Among the players, two received Tk10 lakhs from the football federation through Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The sum not only helped their poor families financially, but also inspired the other girls in the locality.
But despite the increased number of players, the academy is struggling to run without sufficient finance.
It all started back in 2014 when a friendly match was organised at the Rangatuli area.
Most of the spectators were women in that match, and some were even playing outside the football pitch.
Tajul talked with them and asked them to join practice the next day.
On the first day, five of them joined training and currently, the number has risen to 24.
The girls, who are determined to play in the highest level and by doing so, disseminate the pride of Thakurgaon, have been practising under the guidance of coach Jainul Islam, Suga Murmu and Tajul.
“When it started many villagers were furious about girls playing with half pants. On many occasions, we had to stop playing. But now many girls from village areas are playing. It feels good,” said some of the players.
Taijul said he established the academy with his own efforts but if the government or the well-off people extend their helping hand, this academy will flourish and produce international standard players who could bring glory for the nation.
He also informed that the girls have started to generate income through playing football and that is helping their poor families.
However, a few others failed to get admitted at BKSP for financial crisis and along with them, the academy needs some support to continue chasing its dreams.
Not only the financial solvency, football is also acting as a great means to combat the many social taboos.
Sohagi, the daughter of a day labourer and Kakoli, whose mother is a tea vendor and father is a van puller, were determined not only to support their families but also raise awareness to eradicate the malice of child marriage.
The general secretary of the district sports association, Masudur Rahman Babu said, the girls who were selected for the national teams are pride of Rangatungi and the authority will provide them maximum support.
District commissioner Kamruzzaman Selim said some initiatives have been taken to help the young footballers grow and practice to relish their dreams.
They will also urge the government to establish high level sports education centre in the area.