Football to footpath – Odisha footballer now a fish seller on streets

Cuttack: Ashok Das brought laurels for Odisha on several occasions by representing the state in many football tournaments. He was on national media for his outstanding performance in different football tournaments in 2008. However, once a star footballer of Odisha, he is now a street vendor selling fishes on the streets.

Das, a native of Cuttack city, had keen interest in football from his schooling days. He went on to play for his school on several tournaments before joining a club. Ashok then emerged as a promising talent in Odisha football after taking part in several important football tournaments like inter-district tournament, Santosh Trophy and Kalinga Cup. He had even once guided Odisha to the semi-final of a Champion’s Trophy Football tournament played in Andaman.

“I started playing football when I was in the school. I have played several tournaments like the Santosh Trophy, Under-19, Under-21, Sub-Juniors, School Nationals, Kalinga Cup,” said Ashok, who is living in a slum in Puri Ghat area of the Silver City along with his parents, wife and only daughter.

Das, who has received several titles and certificates for his outstanding performances, ran from pillar to post for a job. However, after failing to get one, he chose to sell fishes on the streets to make his ends meet.

“I left football as I did not get any support from anyone. Neither the State government, nor any football association supported me or gave me a job, following which I am selling fishes to earn a livelihood,” he added.

Speaking about Ashok’s hardship, his mother, Kanchana Dei, said, “Earlier he was selling shoes. Currently, he is selling fishes on the footpath to earn a livelihood.”

Ashok’s dream of becoming a national player might have ended, but, he is aiming to produce good footballers from his slum. He provides free coaching to the slum children. “I am teaching them whatever football skills I have learnt. I wish they play for the State and country in the future.”

No comments could be obtained from the local administration on Ashok’s plight.