Bangladesh

Blazing the trail for women’s football

"I have no room to sleep, and it's impossible to sleep if it rains, as the rain drops find their way onto my bed, said 16-year-old Unnati Khatun, and famous female footballer native to Jhenidah. She is a national team member, and the daughter of Abu Daud Sheikh of Doharu village in Shailokupa upazila of Jhenidah.

This correspondent recently visited Doharu village and spent the day talking to Unnati about the various aspects of her life.

Unnati is one of seven siblings, and her father works as a van puller and has no land to his name. They live in a tin-shed house with two rooms, the roof is rusted and holes in it, through which rain water leaks in, making life very difficult, especially in the monsoon.

But luck seems to have smiled on Unnati as she recently got a cheque of Tk 5 lakh from the Prime Minister.

Unnati was inspired to practise football by her head teacher, Rabiul Islam, at Doharu Govt. Primary School. He was always there for her, both in terms of advice or financial aid. With the training under her belt, she took part in the Bangamata Football Competition in 2015.

After passing class five in 2016, she applied for BKSP in 2017, and got admitted in 11 February, 2018. 

Later on, she set off for India to take part in the Subroto Mukherjee gold cup, led by Joya Chakma. She scored six goals and played in five matches, and was awarded Tk 13,000 and a certificate for her participation.

In March 2018, she joined the national team. She took part in Subroto Mukherjee gold cup in India once more, in September 2018. She played six matches there and faced Tripura in the finals. In 2019, she and her team went to the same field again and played with six teams, eventually coming out as champions. In October of the same year, she was in the team that went to Bhutan to play under 15, coming out as runner-up.

Finally, she got her chance to play at Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib gold cup in February, 2020. Here, she managed to reach her full potential, scoring six goals in four matches. She was awarded the golden boot and golden ball. Currently, she is practicing at her own school grounds during the pandemic. She plans to become a coach in the future and contribute to the betterment of the nation and the sport.

Unnati is not alone in the field either, as there are others such as Oishi Khatun from Class 8, Banya Khatun, and Baishaki Khatun of Class 7, who are also studying in BKSP from the same village. Unfortunately, they mentioned that stalkers in the village disturb their practice sessions in the field every day.

Unnati has achieved her place and honed her skills despite the many trials that she has faced in her young life. Her father Daud Hossain says that despite working all day long, his earning of Tk 200-300 is not nearly enough to support his large family, leading to a lot of struggle. His sons and daughters have to go without food quite often, and there have been times when Unnati went to play tournaments without eating anything, simply because he could not manage it.

Rabiul Islam, head teacher of Doharu Govt. Primary School said that Unnati's talent was evident quite early in her life. She is extremely hardworking and sincere, and deserves more attention for her performance.

Photo: Azibor Rahman

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