Women's football game in West Bengal cancelled following objections by a few Muslims
The game was meant to be seven a side affair and few of the national players were also set to take part.
Following ‘orders from the top’, the local administration at West Bengal’s Malda district took the call of cancelling a women’s football match that was to be held there last Saturday, the Block Development Officer(BDO) said. The BDO further said that orders to cancel the game came after a few Muslims in the region had objected to women playing the sport.
“When I came to know about the local opposition, I referred the matter to the SP and the DM, and the local police station. The order came from the top that the match should be cancelled, and I acted accordingly in the interest of peace and tranquillity and public order,” Biplab Roy, BDO of Harishchandrapur, Malda, said.
A team from Kolkata and a North Bengal side was meant to contest the friendly, scheduled to take place on the 14th of March that was was cancelled, following a fatwa that was issued against it by the maulvis of Chandipur village in Harishchandrapur Block-I.
Members of the Indian national women’s football team and few other Arjuna awardees were set to feature in the seven-a-side exhibition fixture and the cancellation has certainly come as a shock and has caused fury elsewhere.
We wanted more women to take up the sport in the future: Reza
One of the chief organisers, Reza Razi, said that the intentions behind conducting the game was to attract more women to take up the sport in the future.
“At the last moment on Friday, when some of the players had already arrived in Malda, some local Muslim maulvis and villagers got together and protested that the exhibition football match could not be organized as it would have adverse impact on the local girls and womenfolk,” he said. “Some of them raised the issue of the clothes that the women players would be wearing, and some said that this sort of sport was against the Shariat.”
Reza, who is also the president of the Progressive Youth Club of Harishchandrapur, further said that some of the local enthusiasts tried to convince the maulvis to go ahead with the match but all of their attempts had no impact.
“We tried to convince the maulvis and all those who had raised objections. I am Muslim myself, and offer namaaz every day. What was wrong in having a women’s football match in the village?” he asked.
He added that following the orders, the local administration couldn't do much and also said that they had filed a complaint with the body on this matter.
“The administration succumbed to the pressure of the maulvis and the fatwa. We had no option.We are a member of the Malda District Sports Association, and we are sending a complaint to the body,” Reza said.
Can't imagine such an incident occurring in today’s times: Mullick
1983 Arjuna awardee and women’s World Cupper, Shanti Aich Mullick said that she was meant to take part in the match and added that no money was charged by the organisers as well.
“I was supposed to participate in the event. They did not ask for money. They agreed to play only to promote football. I can’t imagine such a thing happened in the 21st century,” she said.
She added that all the players, including her, cancelled their visit to Harishchandrapur when they received the news. “Who can take the risk of fielding women footballers in the face of such threats?” she said.
Anamika Sen, who was set to officiate in the game and is currently an AIFF match commissioner, was also shocked by the incident.
“I agreed after I came to know that renowned national level women players like Sujata Kar, Rezina Khatun, Nausaba Alam and Minati Das were participating. I do not know in what kind of a world we are living. Such a thing might have happened a hundred years ago, but it is unbelievable that the administration gave in to such fundamentalist elements in this day and age,” Sen, also a former FIFA grade referee said.
A few locals also indicated that the balance shifted in favour of the maulvis after they got the backing from some of the Trinamool Congress leaders from the area.