Sunshine story: Teen footballer practices under Sion flyover with ball given by Narendra Modi

Updated: Nov 23, 2017, 19:04 IST | Asif Rizvi

Sion teen footballer, whose family lives in dire poverty and is struggling to make room for her medals, says she is determined to play for India one day

She's passionate about football and has even met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gifted her, what is now one of her most prized possessions – a football. But, 16-year old footballer, Mary Naidu, the daughter of a labourer and a defender in her girl's football team, lives in a 10x10 plastic shed on the roads of Matunga. With no access to a football ground, the determined youngster practices her moves under the Sion bridge every single day. The eldest of three siblings, Mary wants to play international football, but her biggest challenges are no permanent home, financial aid or a permanent football ground to practice on.

Mary Naidu

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Speaking to mid-day, Mary said, "I was selected for the Mission 11 Million programme, through which I reached Delhi and had the honour of meeting our prime minister. He shook my hand and presented me with a football. I just love playing football. I am in Std X and next year I will choose a college which has a girl's football team. I have been practicing football every single day without fail for at least two hours. This is far less time that I should be giving to it as I have my board exams coming up."

The Mission 11 Million programme is a football initiative aimed towards taking the game to 12,000 schools in 37 cities across the country in search of the most talented children. It was inaugurated by Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel and president of the All India Football Federation Praful Patel in February this year.

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The plastic shed she lives in 

Mary says she started getting interested in the sport after watching her cousins play. "Four-five years ago, I started playing football with my cousins and I started liking it so much that I would borrow their football and practice all by myself under the bridge. I know I want to play internationally in future. At the moment I play as a defender in my school team, but have been practising to play as a striker. In one of the private tournaments, I scored four goals as a striker. I will practise as much as I possibly can to be a footballer and make my country proud. I know I can do it, the only thing I need is a good football ground and a pair of good shoes."

Prakash Naidu, Mary's father, said, "I am a labourer and live on the street. We have no permanent home. She has so many medals that I have no place in the house to keep them. I do not mind her playing football, but I also want her to pay attention to her studies. As she is the eldest daughter in the family we have high hopes from her. My daughter has been playing many tournaments and has even met the prime minister. I hope our government helps make her dream come true and make her country proud."

Parvez Shaikh, Mary's coach, told mid-day, "Mary has two good qualities as a sportsperson, she is disciplined and focused, and we have been taking her to play tournaments so that she can explore different play skills and grounds. She has played under-14 tournaments and at this age she is an extremely good player with a lot of potential and killer instinct. She does not only play football but also loves boxing. Sadly, she had no ground to practice on. We have spoken to Khalsa College, Matunga, which is the nearest ground to practice football on and they have permitted us to practice there. She needs jerseys shoes and footballs to practice, which we manage to get for her now and then."

Kachru Haribhau Yadav, a social worker, said, "Her family has no money even for basic needs and no permanent shelter. This morning, we gave the family some basic items for the household and we hope Mary gets what she deserves in future." 

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