India’s squad for FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 includes 6 Jharkhand girls


India’s under-17 women’s team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2022 was announced on Wednesday, September 5. The world cup that is scheduled to begin next week will face USA, Morocco, and Brazil. India has been drawn in Group A of the world cup.

Head coach of the team, Thomas Dennerby announced the 21-player squad. All three matches will be played at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. India will face the USA on October 11, followed by Morocco and Brazil on October 14 and October 17.

Interestingly, this time the squad includes six girls from Jharkhand – Astam Oraon, Nitu Linda, Anjali Munda, Anita Kumari, Purnima Kumari, and Sudha Ankita Tirkey. This is also the first time that a tribal player from Jharkhand a defender of the squad, Astam Oraon, will lead India’s U-17 women’s football team in an international competition.

Jharkhand Chief Minister, Hemant Soren, congratulated the six players: “Hearty congratulations to the daughters of Jharkhand who have been selected for the World Cup. The organized training for the Under-17 team in Jamshedpur for almost 2 years was fruitful.”

“It’s a new situation for everyone. India has never played in the World Cup before. This is a different ball game altogether. It’s a unique chance to show everyone that we have prepared well and will not allow anyone to run over us. Everyone wants to play the World Cup, but I can only select the best 21 in the squad,” Coach Dennerby said.

“When you are on the field, everything is held back behind and you just have to focus on the game. That’s what the girls need to do. We are not going into the tournament as the favorites. I believe the pressure then is on the opponents,” said the Swedish coach.

Pointing out the importance of performing well on the pitch, Dennerby said: “The performance is key for us. And I hope the girls are not much nervous and will play with confidence. You can’t be nervous and perform at the same time. It’s time to get the ball rolling.”

Astam who hails from the Banari village in the Gumla district of Jharkhand, and is currently a part of the national team, had played several international matches at the junior level and had also been a part of the Senior Women’s Team camp earlier.

“I believe the biggest strength of our team is the strong bonding among us. It has helped us immensely to grow as professionals and also at our personal levels. Without this sense of bonding, it would not have been possible for everyone to be together,” said Astam.

Shilky Devi, from Manipur, was the youngest of the senior squad when she was called by India women’s National Team coach Thomas Dennerby for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup earlier this year and now, she is a part of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup squad, too.

She said: “We communicate among ourselves extremely well – that’s actually the key factor in our team. We have been together for almost seven months now and know each other in and out. We are always backing each other– It is like a morale booster for all of us.”

On October 4, the Indian squad landed in Bhubaneswar ahead of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022. They have recently returned from their 10-day exposure tour in Spain, where they played matches against Sweden and WSS Barcelona Club as part of their preparations for the World Cup beginning October 11.

In Spain, Jharkhand’s Anita Kumari and Nitu Linda proved to be prolific scorers. In the encounter against WSS Barcelona Club, India won 17-1 and nine of the goals were contributed by Anita and Nitu. While Anita scored five, Nitu netted four times.

“Before the match, I thought of giving my best and score. I wanted to make my country proud. We all were driven by different levels of passion. We could do it as a team. I am happy to score and I know my mother will be very happy,” Anita said.

Nitu said: “Whenever I wear the India jersey, I make sure to give my best and try to score. It is all because of my teammates and the hard work we put together for the last six months. For me, nothing comes easy, be it on or off the field. It’s just the beginning, and we have to prove ourselves more in the coming days.”

Anita Kumari hails from Ranchi, Jharkhand started playing football at the age of nine to support her family back home. “My mother was the only earning member in our house and I saw the challenges she faced every day to raise me. We never received any support from my father. It was hard for my mother to make ends meet. I used to watch boys from my village play football. And just like that, I decided to be the “man of the house” and earn some money to support my mother. That’s how I started playing football,” the striker said.

“No one supported me except my mother, not even our village people. But my mother told me to go ahead and try to realize my dream and said, ‘one day when you will play for the country, people will look up to you.’ And now, two years ago, when I got selected for the India team, people came to my mother to know about my playing career”, she added.

Similarly, Nitu Linda, who was a key player in the SAFF U-18 Championship held in Jamshedpur earlier this year, initially played football as a hobby when she was six years old. Later, playing football turned out to be a real passion for her.

“I used to play lots of other sports in my school, like Kabaddi, and Kho Kho, but never played football seriously. One day, a friend of mine told me to come and join her in a football game and I did. I used to play for pure fun earlier, but eventually, it became my passion,” recalls Linda.

“I knew the difficulty of playing football since I did not have any proper diet, shoes or even necessary clothes, but I did not care and started training. My mother was severely ill during those days so I had to do half of the household work while helping my brother. I used to train in the morning, then go to school. After coming home, I would do the cooking for the household. I followed the same routine for a long time, but never stopped playing.”

Nitu and Anita both nurture the dream of playing and scoring for the country in the upcoming U-17 World Cup and making their parents proud.

“I can’t believe only a week later we will be playing our first match against the US. I hope to give my best and contribute in whichever way I can,” said Anita.

“It will be a dream come true for me. My aim is to score and make everyone smile during the World Cup. The time has come to prove ourselves and we will do it,” added Nitu.




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