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  • The Edict

Ashoka Women’s FC: Making the Difference

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Published on January 16, 2021

By Rahul Agarwal, UG22

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong” – Ella Fitzgerald

In the world of sports, we often hear about teams bulldozing their way through different tournaments. For the most part, winning these competitions defines their character and mentality, but those aren’t the only features that give them meaning. Great teams not only perform on the pitch but also off it. And it is a matter of immense pride that we have one such team among our midst. Their domination in inter-university tournaments is unparalleled, and the work they do off the pitch is nothing short of angelic. One of the most important, most influential groups of women at Ashoka, this piece will cover the wonderful feats of one of our own: the Ashoka Women’s Football Team. So fasten your seatbelts, ladies, and gentlemen, because their story is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride!

It all started with Agneepath, our very own sports fest where they scored 14 goals in their first two games, only for it all to go to vain in the final against a valiant Tika Ram team. However, this wasn’t a loss that would demotivate the team. This was only the start of something extraordinary. Ramping their way through the next three tournaments, they decimated their opponents one game at a time.

Five tournaments, 19 matches played, 53 goals (yes, you read that right!), and three titles. In terms of performances on the pitch, is there anything else left to say? Such dominance and success is something only a unique and well-knit group of individuals can achieve. And our AUWFC team is beyond special.

However, just as the team chemistry hit a maximum and they were preparing themselves for another big tournament, the unfortunate Coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world in its clutches. Everyone was back home, anxiously waiting for the day when they could play the beautiful game together again. Several months passed, the cases kept increasing. This “day” now looked distant.

“I remember the day we heard that we wouldn’t be going back to campus. It was right in the middle of our best season, and honestly pretty devastating for all of us. I could never have imagined turning the situation into anything positive. Yet, here we are nearly a year later, not only surviving but thriving in the pandemic. We have learnt to make the most of whatever is thrown at us. Vrinda (the captain) and I couldn’t be prouder of how much we have grown as a team this year,” said Anushka Mathur, one of the senior players of the team. Anushka’s words prove that the team didn’t feel the need for a pitch and a ball to inspire people around you.

Within a couple of months of being home, the AUWFC became the first sports team at Ashoka to start their own Instagram page. Initially, this seemed like just another initiative that a team would take to promote themselves. Few would have expected the remarkable feats these women would achieve. With the pandemic leaving everyone locked inside their houses, athletes struggled with their health and fitness. Outside of the sports world, the situation was much more dire. Multiple people faced the wrath of losing their jobs and sources of income. The underprivileged were adversely affected due to the lack of basic amenities and the economic strain created by COVID-19. Even the fortunate ones were suffering a little as processes and industries came to a standstill.

The magnitude of the situation sparked an idea as the team decided to take a small step forward and created “KMs for a Cause” – a one of a kind “fitness fundraiser.” Following the example set by the women’s team, many Ashokan students started their fitness campaigns to cover certain distances every day while simultaneously raising funds for every kilometer they covered. Every week, these funds were gathered and donated to a charity chosen by the team members. Having myself taken part in this beautiful initiative, I loved how wonderfully everything fell into place. People could jog or cycle a certain distance every day to keep fit while also doing their bit by raising as much money as possible, knowing that it was all for a good cause. The team put in plenty of hard work to make all this possible, even in such uncertain circumstances. In the end, after about a month and a half, a total of Rs. 9,63,080 was donated to six different charities, with the students having covered just above 5000 kilometers!

Radha Gupta, one of AUWFC’s forwards, said, “We already had an impact on the field, now faced with adversity, we were determined to have an impact off the field as well.” And they didn’t stop there. A couple of months later, they were fighting a battle that should never have existed in the first place. Following an attack by a toxic community of men on an Instagram post of a woman working out in sportswear, AUWFC replied with a wonderful post to counter this. They posted a couple of videos on their own Instagram page where they recounted the various sexist comments they received on the content they posted. Both were embedded with an important message that the world needed to know – there is no space for sexism anywhere.

All women in sports go through the exact same thing. They are criticized for playing a particular game, for putting their everything into it. They are condemned for moving forward in the world of sports, for setting and breaking records that even the men couldn’t manage. We need to remember that the world needs more love and not hatred if we want to make it a better place. There’s no price for supporting female athletes, no harm in promoting their contribution. They can do everything the men can, maybe even more. The community is evolving, and so should we.

This was also beautifully summarized by another member of the team, Ridhi Saksena. “Being a woman footballer on this team isn’t only about our love for the game. It’s also about our drive to empower each other through our love for the game. I’m forever grateful for the support that I have received from the team on and off the field.”

It is high time we acknowledge the efforts being taken by teams like our very own Ashoka Women’s FC. They’re fighting a war they shouldn’t have to; the least we can do is support them and constantly move towards ending the fight once and for all.

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