A girl from Tamil Nadu—B Mariammal (17), who aspires to be a renowned footballer, will be flying to take centre stage at the FIFA U-17 Women’s Football World Cup in 2020 as the budding player is selected as one of the players in Indian team for the international FIFA Football World Cup tournament. Mariammal a daughter of a handloom worker, kicked down societal and financial barriers like a pro to make her dream came true to play in the World Cup. All credit goes to her strong will and undivided attention to practice. Mariammal has earned the opportunity to participate in the FIFA football tournament for the under-17s in the year 2020. “My native town is Sankagiri, Salem. My parents are handloom workers. I was inspired by my elder brother, who is a football player and is currently pursuing his studies at one of the Tiruchy colleges,” said Mariammal to Awesomemachi.com.

At this stage, Mariammal keeps herself busy in testing and honing her own football skills, and believes in rigorous training that will give her the chance to win for the country. She became the poster girl from Tamil Nadu to make it to the top among other well-equipped and experienced competitors as her impressive skills moved all. “At the initial stage, my parents objected to my dream of becoming a football player. Later, they accepted my wish, on seeing my passion for the game,” says Mariammal in an interview with Hindu Tamil.

Mariammal would be the only player from Tamil Nadu to be selected on the list of 18 players from across the country to represent India this edition.

When Mariammal was in class eight, she joined Namakkal District Sports Club functioning under the Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority. She is currently in class 12 studying at Namakkal Govt. Girls. Hr. Sec. School. She says she practices every day in the morning and in the evening. Mariammal has earlier participated in many national level football tournaments, and thus the passion or ambition to represent country in the World Cup was born. “I participated on behalf of the Namakkal team at the 2018 National Youth Soccer Tournament in Goa. I scored 12 goals in that series, which led to the team’s success. Subsequently, I was selected for the Indian team in the Under-17 category. I feel proud that I’m the only Tamil Nadu girl who has been selected for the FIFA tournament”, she added.

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Coming from an economically backward family, Mariammal couldn’t afford the gears to make herself better at the game. Football was more than a passion for her and her parents Balamurugan and Ghandhimathi worked hard to make the ends meet by working at a handloom unit at Sankari in Salem. Thus the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu extended a helping hand.

“When I was in class VIII, I came on the radar of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) in Namakkal. That my brother was a football player only added to my own love for the sport. I could hardly pay for the gears, including boots. That is when my coach Gokila became the pillar of support for me, both mental and financial,” she said to The New Indian Express.

Furthermore, she has undergone training for about 25 days in Punjab and Oddisa states and learned key game skills. The training will make her a strong competitor in the field and will guide her to stay firm and teach her how to pass the ball to fellow players. Along with this, she has participated in the training sessions in Germany, Bhutan and Thailand.

“Since I’m from a normal family, there is difficulty in purchasing shoes and other sports materials. However, with the encouragement given by my coach, I am on a mission to become a better football player and coach in the future”, says Mariammal brimming with confidence.

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The 17-year-old earned praise in junior national level matches at Telangana, Manipur, Odisha, Maharashtra and Goa. She scored 12 goals to catch the attention of the selectors in Goa, who immediately sent her to Patiala in Punjab and Cuttack in Odisha for training.

The 17-year-old earned praise in junior national level matches at Telangana, Manipur, Odisha, Maharashtra and Goa. She scored 12 goals to catch the attention of the selectors in Goa, who immediately sent her to Patiala in Punjab and Cuttack in Odisha for training. In February, she was sent to Germany for a camp. “Playing competitive matches on foreign shores help the team acclimatise to alien conditions and scale up to international standards,” she added.

“The camps in Punjab and Odisha helped me upscale my technique insofar as receiving and passing the ball were concerned. I made good use of the gym, swimming pool and equipment. Such facilities are missing here (Namakkal). If such equipment is made available to the local talents at SDAT hostels, there is no way our players would not be able to upskill,” she explained.

All these meets and competitions have taken a toll on her studies, but Mariammal is not backing out. Her coach Gokila told expresses that as she was in Goa and Hong Kong, she was not unable to attend her classes after vacation. “She has been going to school for the past five days. Though she needs to write the board exam in 2020, the FIFA world cup is a grand opportunity for her. We plan to approach the headmaster of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School to sort out the attendance issue,” Gokila said.

You go girl! The entire country if rooting for you, Mariammal!

Good luck!

Feature image credit: EPS

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