From pathways to football triumph, life's wonderful game

Jyoti Lodhi, 16, scored two goals in the state-level football championship . The BFA Pathshala initiative provides free education to children from the most marginalized parts of society .

A gush of memories of her time on the footpath flooded her mind as she was dribbling the ball during the finals of the state-level football championship held recently in Vadodara.But Jyoti Lodhi, 16, shrugged them away, ran towards the goal, netted the ball, sending her team into a wild celebration.In the 5th K K Vithani Memorial All Gujarat Invitation Football Tournament, dozens of matches were played.However, the BFA Pathshalas 5-0 victory over Delhi Public School took the title of an encounter that demonstrated that resilience can offset disadvantages.

Jyoti and her team of girls from poor families were on a special occasion.Being raised in utter poverty, they knew that winning was not a choice until they were pitted against the students of the respected DPS, Kalali.The girls had to persist to believe that they could do something if they continued to do it.They were initially nervous as the game was seen as a match between David and Goliath.

It was one of my life's highlights.According to an elated Jyoti, who earned the player of the tournament award, I felt as if I had accomplished something important and my confidence is sky-high.Only four months before the team that won the championship trophy began playing football.Many of the girls had never kicked the ball or even seen a game of soccer before.

According to Juin Dutta, president of the Pathshala initiative, football is a game in which you learn to play as a team, bond with one another, and trust your teammates.The initiative provides free education to children from the most marginalized parts of society.I wanted the girls to learn the skills that would enable them to see the world head on and endure through hardships, according to Dutta.Dutta continued to say that the intention was to foster their mental and physical growth.

I called the Baroda Football Academy, which sent in their coaches to prepare the girls.She admitted that she never expected the girls to win the championship.Despite their creativities, their hopes were intact.One must understand the game's fundamentals, and some of them had to really work on it, according to Dutta.

However, they won the tournament.I'm so proud of myself.Dutta watched the finals from the stands.The girls lived for four months on the ground in a Duttas-built hostel.

Child marriages are common in our state.I didnt want to go back to Pathshala, but I put my foot down, said Tejal, the daughter of daily-wage laborers.My parents were steadfast in my decision, and I was confident in wanting to study, she said.She left her village and returned to Vadodara, fighting everyone's wishes.

She said I too joined them once, but was scolded by the elders.When I stayed at Navprerna School, where I had grown up, I developed my footballing skills.Look where I am now.Tejal was the goalkeeper of the Pathshala squad.

I get them to play in the sun and prepare them to be tough, said Dutta.I don't treat the players well enough, and that's the reason their on-field stamina was so much higher than that of their opponents.The hostel that provides them with free education and nutrition serves about 98 girls and boys from poor families.Some of them are children of ragpickers and construction workers, and many of them live in the slums, according to Dutta.

The BFA Pathshala girls were inspirational on the field when they faced their opponents with panache and authority, according to Sandip Desai, who runs Baroda Football Academy.The tournament had been organized by the academy.They were awestruck, and seeing them play was a treat, Desai said.They were coached by our coaches.

We do it as part of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, where underprivileged children are not only coached but also given free football equipment, Desai said.Duttas' hopes have been bolstered by this triumph.I hope some of them continue to play in the nationals and win the game for the club, she said.Jyoti Lodhi, 16 (Forward)When she was a child, the 16-year-old relocated from Uttar Pradesh to Vadodara with her parents.

I don't have many memories of my youth, but I do remember playing on the footpaths, she said.Since joining the school at the age of 9 years old, Jyotis' life changed for the better.She not only excelled in academics but was also elected president of the student council and sports captain.Juin Dutta, the lead designer of the Pathshala project, said she is a natural leader.

In the finals, I played in the forward position and scored two goals.I love this sport because it has taught me to work as a team member, said Jyoti, who received the player of the tournament award.She lives in the hostel with her sister and two brothers.She aspires to be an IPS officer.

As an infant, I faced them as well.Jyoti said, I want to stop bullying of women.