One player who caught everyone’s attention during the District Sports Office (DSO) U-17 girls football final at the Naigaon Police Ground, Dadar was Rita Cascia Ukachukwu of Convent of Jesus and Mary (Fort).
The 16-year-old who had played as a striker during regulation time, donned the role of a goalkeeper during penalty shoot-out and effected two saves that helped her school beat JB Petit High School (Fort) 6-5.
What’s more she also converted her penalty. Earlier, both teams were locked 1-1 at the final whistle. Born to a Nigerian father and Indian mother in the African country, Rita, is set to be eligible for Indian citizenship soon.
The sport, holds some tragic memories for Rita. He father Cletus, suffered a stroke and passed away while playing football in his country when she was barely one-and-a-half-years old. The youngster has taken to the game to fulfill her father’s dream.
“My mother often tells me that my dad was a passionate footballer. But I have never asked her much about him. I miss him when I see my maternal uncle Crispin Correa hug his daughters — Chanelle (5) and Myesha (2) and get them chocolates and gifts. If my father would have seen me play today, I’m sure he would have been proud of me,” said the Class X student.
After her father’s death, her mother brought her back to India and got her admitted to the Convent of Jesus and Mary. It’s in India where her coaches — DN Singh, Dilip Patankar and Prakash Khati introduced Rita to football.
“I started playing football only after I joined school at the age of 11. Before that, I aspired to be a long distance runner. But once I begun playing football, it has become my life,” said the striker.
Rita dedicated the win to her teachers and coaches. “This is my last year in school. I dedicate this win to all my teachers and coaches, who have made me what I am today,” Rita said.
Earlier, Natasha Masters equalised for Jesus and Mary after Zarastyn Mistry had put Petit in front. Both teams changed their goalkeepers in the shoot-out. Zarastyn replaced Jennifer Jagose for Petit, while Rita replaced Andrea D’Souza.
Alaia Singh, Zarastyn, Muskan Khanna and Sireena Divecha were on target for JB Petit, who looked poised for victory before Diya Sanghi failed to score, sending the game into sudden death with the teams tied at 4-4.
Rita, Natasha Masters, Meghna Lohate and Vyoma Ramaiya scored for Jesus and Mary while Valancia Mascarenhas failed to score. JB Petit’s Meher Chatwal missed too, while Daniya Ahmed made no mistake from the spot handing Convent of Jesus and Mary their first DSO district title.