Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

India is currently hosting FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 in Bhubaneswar, Margao and Navi Mumbai. Thanks to the mega global even, a road is being built connecting a remote village in Jharkhand to the main land. That village is home to the current Indian U-17 women’s team captain Astam Oraon.

Astam hails from Banari Goratoli village under Bishunpur block in Gumla district. The footballers’s family members are overjoyed that a road is being made in her name.

Astam has come from a remote hamlet to be the captain of the national team. The U-17 footballer has braved all odds and travelled an arduous journey to now stand on the brink of glory and history.

Astam’s parents Heeralal Oraon and Tara Devi work as daily labourers and rely on their small agricultural land to make ends meet. However, their financial hardships couldn’t deter Astam from pursuing her passion. Heeralal may be a daily wage labourer in profession, but his love for the game is immense. It is his endless love for football that inspired Astam to set a goal for herself to be a footballer of national repute.

Despite the huge financial burden on them, the family took all the pain silently and groomed Astam diligently for a bigger stage. Once she made a mark in football in the grassroots level, Heeralal sent Astam to Hazaribagh to fine-tune her football skills under the watchful eyes of some well-known coaches.

“My father couldn’t pursue his dream of playing football because of a knee injury. However, his dream stayed in me. With proper training I did well in school level tournaments. With hard work and consistent effort I have come thus far from a nondescript village,” said Astam on the sidelines of FIFA U1-7 Women’s World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

After doing well at various district level tournaments, Astam was called to Hazaribagh for a trial where she made the cut in 2016. That was the first time she got the opportunity to stay away from home and train. In the camp there, there were players like Sunita Manda, Pratiksha Lakra and Sandhya Kashyap who had played for India’s age-group teams and that gave her the hope that she can also play for India in the future. She never looked back again.

Eventually, it was her impressive show in the U-17 nationals at Kolhapur in 2019 that got her into the India camp. Astam has since been part of India’s setup at different age group levels. She has played for the U-15 team and earlier this year was part of the side that won the SAFF U-18 championship. Astam has also been part of the senior India camp and made her debut for the team in a friendly against Tunisia in 2021.

With her arduous journey to success, Astam has proved that lack of resources is not always the deciding factor on where someone will reach in life. In sports, especially, talent and merit could quite often be the difference between success and failure. All one needs is encouragement, proper grooming, clear goal setting and persistence effort.