Born in Jalandhar and brought up in Delhi, 24-year-old Tanvie Hans completed her higher studies from the University of Exeter in England, where her family is settled. However, all this while, in the middle of moving countries, there was one thing constant in Hans’ life — football. Today, she plays for Tottenham Hotspur, one of the premier clubs of England.
It has been over two years that Hans has been playing as a winger/attacking midfielder with the team. She spoke to SheThePeople.TV about her soccer journey.
Hans first picked up the ball when she was seven. A self-confessed tomboy, she said: “The boys in my class played, and I wanted to play like them, and be as good as them.”
Throughout her childhood, Hans played several sports, but football remained her favourite.
What really got Hans hooked to the game is the movie Bend It Like Beckham. She saw it when she was 12 years old. “I related a lot to the character Jess-being Punjabi and not at all inclined towards the usual girly stuff — and into football. And that movie made me realize there was a world out there of football for girls,” reminisced Hans.
Fortunately for Hans, her school in Delhi was the first to have a girls’ football team along with the boys’ team. So she had an opportunity to play the game at school-level.
“The boys in my class played, and I wanted to play like them, and be as good as them”
Then Hans moved to England and played the sport in her college, which led to her selection in the Tottemham Hotspurs FC. But ask her how it is to be a professional football player in India and she says it is an unsteady career with no fixed graph.
“National tournaments are rare, and very short-lived. Most of the calendar year looks action-less. But that’s where it becomes our duty to stay connected with the sport regardless and maybe make a difference in some way, so the future looks better for the budding talent. The game is growing now in the country. Albeit mostly for men, but it will and is trickling through to the women slowly,” stated Hans, matter-of-factly.
In India, Haryana, Manipur and Goa are the only three states to have women-specific football leagues. We had the first Indian women’s league only in 2016 and we’re ranked 58th worldwide.
Talking about the disparity between men’s and women’s sport — be it any — Hans said, “I think women in general have less opportunities than men in sport. This includes competitions and income level. That alone is evidence of the shortage of importance given. Women’s sport in general doesn’t seem to be top priority, though recent events have shown how victorious our women athletes can be.”
“You now have the example of Mary Kom, PV Sindhu, Phogat sisters etc. who have earned the status of celebrities but have had their fair share of difficulties due to being women. But they are paving the way for change,” Hans added.
Hans looks up to legendary Indian footballer Oinem Bembem Devi for inspiration
So which footballers inspire Hans? Legendary Indian footballer, Oinem Bembem Devi is on top of her list. “She had a two decade-long career in Indian women’s football, from a time when it probably didn’t exist much at all. Messi for just being a magician that never fails to impress time and time again. Ronaldo for his dedication and hard work. Carlo Lloyd for her constant spirit to keep going. Mia Hamm and Marta for making the sport even a tiny bit known for women!”
She also feels inspired by Serena Williams for winning a Grand Slam while being pregnant, “and showing the world that women can even overcome biological limitation when you’re that focused”.
Hans’ passion for the sport shows through her initiatives — #GiftOfFootball and #TrainWithTanvieHans. Through #GiftofFootball, she encourages people to gift a football to an underprivileged child on occasions like her birthday, new year’s etc. “Because who knows how the sport could change his/her life. It changed mine. Apart from this, I try to be an example for the women (and men) who want to pursue their passion, in football or otherwise, and let them know that they can achieve anything,” said Hans.
Hans has comfortably played in England. She has a great desire to play for India, which she calls her home. But she cannot play for India as she has a British passport and not an Indian one
However, the footballer returned to Bangalore to connect with her grassroots and teach the sport to young girls here.
“I visit the city (Bangalore) a couple times a year as my Nani lives there. And my maternal family stays here, and the number of opportunities that come knocking on my door on every visit just made me realize that this is the place I need to be to further my career on and off the field. So I’m tied up with couple turfs here where I’ll be coaching. I am also doing my own training, working a little with Bengaluru FC as well, and the Nike Head Office is here. Just all fits together very well for me here :)”
Hans is now the poster girl of the ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ play. She trained the actresses during rehearsals to make their movements look more believable
Comparing England and India in terms of a woman footballer’s economic growth, Hans found both countries lacking. “Even in England, at that level, there isn’t a lot of income for women footballers, so everyone has a job during the day. As did I. I moved through a couple of different jobs when I was playing in London. Now in India, I am coaching (apart from playing) to be able to support myself, but also to pass on the education I have learnt as a player in my time in the UK.”
Since sportspersons have a relatively shorter career, Hans has thought of her career plans ahead. She want to manage a professional women’s team in India once she retires as a player.
Much like her dream film, the director of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’, Gurinder Chadha, heard Hans’ story from someone. She found the similarities between the character of her film and Hans so much that she offered a production role to her for a play based on the same movie.
Hans is now the poster girl of the Bend it Like Beckham play. She also trained the actresses during rehearsals to make their movements look more believable as footballers on stage.
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