Women who inspire us: Sangeetha

Footballer Sangeetha's tale of overcoming social and financial challenges serves as a reminder of the courage of a woman who has dared to script her own destiny.

Sangeetha hails soccer for giving her an identity and removing some of the stigma that comes with being a street dweller.   -  Special Arrangement

“Instead of saying what I learnt from life, I can say football taught me what life is”. 

Sangeetha, a 20-year-old girl from Tamil Nadu, who changed her fortunes with football at her feet, was quoted as saying in the award-winning documentary ‘Made in Madras’. 

From leading an arduous life on the streets of Chennai to making a name at a global sporting event in Moscow, Sangeetha has gained stardom, thanks to her craze for football. 

For years, Sangeetha’s family of five has called Chennai’s Wall Tax Road their home. Currently pursuing her bachelor’s in physical education, she had to once quit school when her family struggled to make ends meet.

 

Teenaged Sangeetha, to help her family, then worked in a utensil manufacturing company but was fortunately rescued from child labour shortly, by an NGO. Karunalaya Centre for Street and Working Children urged her to return to the classroom, which she agreed on the condition that she would be allowed to do what she loved the most - play football. 

Belonging to an orthodox community, things were far from easy for Sangeetha. Initially, she was not encouraged to step on the field because she had to wear shorts in her football kit. Her mother, though, supported her choices.

READ: Praful Patel: Indian women's team will qualify for FIFA World Cup before the men

Dancing with the ball at her feet, Sangeetha was the talk of the town, being the only girl among boys on the ground.

Her passion for the sport would soon bear fruit. In 2015, she was part of Karunalaya’s winning team at the Slum Soccer Games, where she also adjudged the ‘most promising’ player of the tournament. The year later, she became the only girl from Tamil Nadu to be selected for the Homeless World Cup held in Scotland. 

Her big moment, though, came in 2018 when she was part of the girls’ team that represented India at the Street Child World Cup -- a global movement for street children to receive the protection and opportunities that all children are entitled to. 

Her participation at the tournament grabbed attention back home and since then, life has undergone some changes for her and her teammates. “There was a time when people kept away from street dwellers. Now, they can take home a lesson or two from us,” she said in the seven-minute film. 

Sangeetha dreams of playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Only time can tell what the future holds, but her story of overcoming social and financial challenges serves as a reminder of the courage of a young woman who has dared to script her own destiny.

  Dugout videos