19 Aug INDIAN WOMEN’S IMPRESSIONS IN RUGBY
Indian women breaking stereotypes: The historic victory of Ruggers women
In India, rugby is presumed as a ‘man’s game.’ And still, it was 26 women who did something never done before by Indians — create history by winning their first-ever international XVs rugby medal
You probably missed the news of how, last month, the Indian women’s 15-a-side team won the bronze medal in the four-team Asia Women’s Division 1 Rugby XVs Championships in the Philippines, conquering a stronger and advanced ranked Singapore team, 21-19.
Consider this—The team was put together only last year, and a majority of the members come from tribal areas, and rural parts of the country in states like Odisha, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar.
Aside from playing rugby, they have other jobs—physiotherapist, police and gym trainer—to support themselves, while some are still studying in universities.
Reading their stories makes it evident that they have endured everything, including a language barrier and abject poverty, and have beaten the odds
Take the example of 34-year-old Sangeeta Beera, who is the oldest member of the team. Almost four years ago, she stood firm in her determination not to have a c-section for the birth of her son fearing that the long recovery time would affect her performance on the field.
Even though the child was born at a whopping 4 kg, she underwent the intense pain of natural birth and was back on the field in just three months.
Then there’s Priya Baisla, the 25-year-old outside center, who would have probably gotten married right out of school had she not picked up the sport.
Funding and the future
Rugby India is primarily maintained by World Rugby.
While support from the Central level is nominal, the Odisha government has yet again taken up the mantle of supporting rugby as it did with hockey and athletics.
The Odisha government has been very forthcoming and supportive in terms of providing facilities and holding our national training camps. The team has even partnered with the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), and they have helped the team attain high-performance progress.
Despite all the progress, there is a long way to go for the team. The women know that rugby won’t bring home a sizeable income, and still need a secure job to supplement their pursuit of the sport.
Nonetheless, the passion is there, and they are determined to make their mark.
Marking the dawn of India’s advent, women’s rugby has a long way to walk and a history to create.