Women’s football in India needs a voice of reason before it sinks further into oblivion, into a lethal mix of regressive emotion, pride and honour. Needless to say, none of those is good for an individual who harbours ambitions of making a name through the game.
In fact, the cruelly perverse activity that football can be, it had almost brought this Delhi girl’s ambitions crashing down around seven years back when, after attending a month-long camp with the Indian team, she was informed that she couldn’t possibly be selected because of her British passport. A corresponding feature from a leading daily in the country went on to describe how she was pretty good by Indian standards but wouldn’t stand a chance if put to test in leagues abroad.
Well, a season and a half with one of England’s premier clubs Tottenham Hotspur later, Tanvie Hans has definitely put all of that to rest. Such have been her achievements that they constantly dwarf the collective developments that we see here.
How playing in England boosted Tanvie’s career
An alumnus of Vasant Valley School, Delhi and Jesus & Mary College, Tanvie went for her Masters to University of Exeter in England, and this is where her tryst with football took a turn for the better. As she recalls, “It was a true pleasure playing for Exeter, with and against skillful players. I got to play, but I had plenty of bench time as well. It was a wake up call, telling me that I’m good, but I need to be and can be better.”
She adds that the time spent in England gave her the impetus to train harder and strive towards taking up the game professionally. She also says that the overwhelming desire to get back to the set-up is what drove her to return to London in 2013 and appear for trials. “Initially I listed about 4-5 clubs to try out for (including Manchester City), just to give myself enough opportunities so that I'd find success somewhere for sure. But I got a call back from Tottenham, which to me was extremely gratifying.
“All the trials had similar formats, usually spread over two days. There were up to 50 girls at all the tryouts, majority of them being under 20 years of age. That just goes to show the strength of the youth in football. The girls here play like they have something to prove every time, and seem to have a natural 'technical' ability with the ball. Needless to say the competition was up there! So it was definitely hard to stand out.
“I don’t think the clubs are only looking for extraordinary players who can immediately add to the strength of the starting line-up for the first team; that’s an extremely rare case. The club usually already has a solid first team. It's rather the case of selecting players who they feel have the ability to step up and perform for the team if and when required, and have the potential to move up the ranks.”
She adds that she has a special connect with Tottenham, and that it almost feels like home now, “It's been about two years now that I've been with them, and I couldn't be happier.”
Bend it like Beckham – the musical
Earlier this year, I managed to gather some footage from a game of hers for the Spurs ladies, and she seemed to be in a league of her own. Looking relaxed in every move, there was a fine rhythm to her play. More than anything else, she was consistent and rarely let the duration of the game douse her energy.
Hers is a story that needs to be told to the people. And a name synonymous with the women’s game in our country, albeit in a totally different context, is going to take it to a much bigger audience this May.
Gurinder Chadha, the UK-based film-maker and director of “Bend it like Beckham” is coming up with a musical with the same title, and has Tanvie as part of her production team. In fact, the first set of promotional posters for the same feature the Delhi girl prominently.
One day Tanvie could play for the country too. It goes without saying that her best achievements lie ahead of her, and the odd failure too, but the seed to stardom shall be sown in Phoenix Theatres in London this summer.
Here’s wishing that a bigger set of people take notice of her exemplary achievements, and maybe in time recognize that we are witnessing the journey of India’s first woman footballer who played professionally in Europe.