Even though professional football at the highest level, that is in the Indian Super League, has begun in India, the game at the lower levels is still in the cooler because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the girls of Umthli Secondary School cannot wait to get back on the pitch and play competitive football again.
Umthli were Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) national football champions in the girls’ division in 2017-18. They won each of their eight matches in the final round in Navi Mumbai, scoring an astounding 87 goals while conceding only four, on their way to the title.
Baiatylli Nongkynrih, the sports in-charge at Umthli Secondary School, who coached them to victory that year, told a news website recently, “The players and I cannot wait for things to settle on the Covid front and for the tournament to come back.”
Boys teams have also won trophies at the RFYS finals over the years but with precious few opportunities for girls to shine on the pitch, the RFYS tournament is especially prized by girls’ teams.
The chance to take part has also led to one of the school’s players, Wandashisha Marwein, to take part in a trial for the India U-17 girls’ team last year, though she was ultimately unsuccessful as she was just coming out of injury at the time.
“Winning the RFYS National Championships was the most special experience I have ever had in football,” she says. “Our school only has girls from classes 8 to 10, but at this tournament we were playing against schools who fielded teams that had girls from classes 8 to 12. So, they were bigger but we were able to beat them,” Marwein, who has also represented Meghalaya in the Subroto Cup, said.