Ranjita Singh is 27 years old and represented India at an international championship organised by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in 2003. Few years after that, a nagging knee problem forced her to quit playing. Though she wanted to join the National Institute of Sports, financial difficulties forced her to take up a job as woman constable of Bihar Police.
Today, this enterprising woman lures extremely poor children, including slum-dwellers and street children, to soccer to give them new lives.
“I have been coaching football to 65 youngsters, including one girl, from extremely poor families to help them represent the state and the country in various tournaments,” Ranjita said.
What is interesting about the kids is their family background.
“Four of the six players who represented Bihar are the sons of sweepers with the Homeguards or the Railways while the two others are the sons of a daily-wage labourer and a milk vendor,” she says.
Apart from love of the sport, the main reason for her coaching football is to teach kids how to respect each other as human beings, how to resolve problems amicably and most importantly how to live a clean life free of drugs and alcohol.
“I saw about a dozen young boys loitering around aimlessly in the streets. Most were addicted either to drugs or gutkha. I casually invited them to play soccer with me at a local playground one morning. I started practising soccer with them every day and discovered that some of them were very gifted players,” Ranjita said.
When the boys started attending her morning practice sessions regularly, she told them that she would not practice with them anymore because of their addictions and other bad habits. This brought about a sea change in their behaviour and they promised to give up all their bad habits to play football with her. With the help of her colleague Sushma and a physical training instructor Chandan, she got them admitted to different schools and even got their tuition fee waived.
So far, six children she trained have represented Bihar in the under-13 national championships and three others to make it to Sports Authority of India (SAI) hostel at Kishanganj, Bihar.
A fine example of how much each one of us can do to help our society!