She represented India at both junior and senior international levels and also played a key part in her state Odisha’s senior national championship triumph in 2012 but now she runs a betel shop in her village to make a living.
This is the tragic story of 23-year-old Rashmita Patra, as revealed by HT. Rashmita is the daughter of a daily labourer and was married to a man without a fixed job a year ago.
In order to run her family comprising of her husband and a baby, Rashmita runs a betel shop in Aul, located in the Kendrapara district of Odisha and about 120 km east of Bhubaneswar.
Only three years ago, the former defender was playing for India in the Asian Cup qualifying tournament in Dhaka, Bangladesh and also helped the senior national team win an invitational series in Bahrain. But poverty has cut short her career even though her passion for the beautiful game remains the same.
“Football is in my blood but poverty has nipped my career in the bud,” she was quoted saying.
Rashmita started playing at the age of 12 with coaches Chitta Ranjan Patra and Pramod Patra soon spotting her talent. She first represented India in the AFC U-16 qualifiers in Malaysia back in 2008. Due to her participation in that tournament Rashmita had to miss out on her class 10 board exams.
“I could not appear for Class 10 exam as it coincided with my camp for the AFC qualifier for Malaysia,” she recalled.
That sacrifice seemed to be worth it for a while as Rashmita won the junior and senior championships with her state and soon became a member of the India senior women’s national team.
But due to financial problems she had to quit sports hostel and following her marriage she hasn’t been able to return to football.
There hasn’t been any support from her state but Odisha’s sports and youth service minister Sudam Marandi has at least publicly stated that they would look into Rashmita’s situation.
“The state government announces several facilities including cash awards for sports persons from time to time. I will try to take steps to ensure she comes back to the game,” Marandi stated.
One can only hope that Rashmita can overcome the poverty even if she is unable to return to the sport.Published 14 Jul 2014, 13:28 IST