Jhuma Hazra struggles to control her excitement as she speaks about the next few days of her life. For, in a few hours from now, the 19-year-old is about to undertake a 6,800-km journey from Mumbai to Amsterdam along with 15 others to participate in the Homeless World Cup, to be held in the Dutch capital from September 12-19.
The India women's team, with goalkeeper Jhuma Hazra (centre in blue), that will be participating in the Homeless World Cup in The Netherlands, during a practice session in Andheri yesterday. The tournament will be held from September 12-14 in Amsterdam. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
This is the first time Jhuma, the women's team's goalkeeper, will travel out of the country, but it will be nothing compared to Jhuma's journey from Kolkata to the Indian team, that has seen her defeat superstition.
"When I was only nine weeks old my father passed away. Our superstitious neighbours tried to convince my mother that since a girl child is a bad omen, I was responsible for the death," recalled Jhuma.
Her mother, however, was having none of it and continued to stand behind her daughter even when, at the age of six, she started playing football with the boys in the area.
"There were no girls playing football back then where I lived. So, I played with the boys," she said. Jhuma, in fact, got so good playing with the boys that she played for West Bengal at the Nationals at the U-14 level.
Now, Jhuma has set her sights on playing for India one day. "The dream is to play for India. Hopefully, one day I can reach there and serve as an example for others like me who have nothing," she said.
Matches of the Homeless World Cup tournament are played on a pitch 22 meters long by 16 meters wide. The 4-a-side matches are played in two halves of seven minutes each, with a one minute break for half-time. Women's and men's teams compete for separate cups, but women can play in the men's teams too.
The Homeless World Cup is as much a football tournament as a social movement which tries to use the sport to inspire a change in the lives of homeless people.
Members of the Indian men's team that will be participating in the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam
The tournament, co-founded by Mel Young and Harald Schmied, was first conceptualised in 2001 after a conference about homelessness. The first Homeless World Cup took place in Graz, Austria in 2003.
This year, there will be 48 men's and 16 women's teams. The Indian team is picked by Slum Soccer, a Nagpur-based NGO, the brainchild of Vijay Barse and currently handled by his son Abhijit.