23-year old former Indian woman footballer Ms. Rashmita Patra now runs a betel shop in a Odisha village, Aul, about 120 km east of Bhubaneswar. She is still passionate about football but says she is left with no other option to add to the income of the family comprising of her husband and a baby.
A few years ago, she represented India in football as a defender bringing laurels for the country but now poverty has forced the young woman to run a betel shop in a village in Odisha’s Kendrapara district to earn a living.
Rashmita, daughter of a daily wage labourer, begun playing football at the age of 12. Soon two coaches Chitta Ranjan Patra and Pramod Patra spotted her talent and began training her. After participating in several state and national level tournaments, she donned the national colours in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for Under-16 women’s qualifier at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in 2008.
Two years later, she helped Odisha win the National Women’s Football Under-19 in Cuttack. In 2011, she again played for India in senior AFC qualifying round at Dhaka and helped the country win an invitational series in Bahrain.
Rashmita was also a member of the Odisha football team that won the Senior Women’s Football Championship in Bhilai in 2012.
But all these achievements did not fetch any reward for the poor girl, who could not finish school. She could not appear for Class 10 exam as it coincided with her camp for the AFC qualifier for Malaysia. She even had to quit the sports hostel in Bhubaneswar in 2009 due to family’s financial problems. In 2013, she got married to a man without a permanent job.
(Originally published on Halabol’s facebook page)