A seven a-side exhibition women’s football match had to be cancelled following a fatwa issued by a group of maulavis at Chandipur village in Harishchandrapur Block –I in Malda district of West Bengal last Saturday. The incident has sent shock waves through sporting community including India team women football players and Arjuna awardees in women football.
Narrating the incident the President of Progressive Youth Club of Harishchandrapur – Reza Razi said that he along with several sports enthusiast of the locality had organized a seven-a- side exhibition football match on March 14 in a ground of a local women’s higher secondary school with a view to encourage local women to come into the game.
“But at the last moment on Friday when some of the players had already arrived in Malda, some local muslim maulivis and villagers got together and protested that the exhibition football match could not be organized as it would have adverse impact on the local girls and women folk. Some of them raised the issue of the outfits the women players will be wearing and some said that this sort of sport was allegedly against the Shariat,” said Reza.
‘We tried to convince the maulivis and those who had raised objections. I myself is a Muslim and offer namaz everyday. What was wrong in having a women’s football match in the village?” asked Reza . He said that he also informed the local administration for help in holding the match but the local district administration raised the issue of law and order problem and cancelled the match. “They administration succumbed to the pressure of the maulivis and teh fatwas. We had no other option,” said Reza. “We are a member of the Malda District Sports Association and we are sending a letter to the body complaining about the whole incident, he added.
The friendly exhibition match was to be played between Kolkata Side and North Bengal side with national and Indian women team players participating along with upcoming young women footballers. Shanti Aich Mullick – a women world cupper and an Arjuna Awardee in 1983 in sports who played footballer between 1976 and 1983 said, “I was supposed to go along with the players to participate in the event.”
“It was a purely a sporting venture and the players did not even ask for money. They had agreed to take it as a promotional match. But I just can’t imagine that in the 21st century such a thing could happen,” said Mullick. ‘We called off our visit as soon we came to know that the local administration is not agreeable to hold the match. “Who can take the risk of fielding women footballers in the face of such threats,” she added. She went on to add that she now coaches budding women footballers at Rabindra Sarovar stadium in Kolkata and those coming to play the game include a large number of very enthusiastic and promising girl footballers who come from Muslim families.
Anamika Sen – a former FIFA grade referee, who is now a AIFF match commissioner and instructor was also to go to conduct the match. “I agreed when I came to know that renowned women players of national and Indian women team players like Sujata kar, Rezina Khatun, Nausaba Alam and Minati Das were participating in the exhibition match. “I do not know in what kind of a world we are existing. Such a thing could have happened 100 years ago but we just cannot believe that the administration will give into such fundamental elements.
Biplab Roy, the Block Development Officer of Harishchandrapur in Malda admitted that the women’s football match had to be cancelled by the administration after a section of local muslims objected to it. “When I came to know about the local opposition, I referred the matter to the SP and the DM and also the local police station. The order came from the top that the match should be cancelled and I acted accordingly in the interest of peace and tranquillity and public order,” said Roy.
Some local villagers however, indicated that the balance tilted towards the maulivis as some local Trinamool Congress leaders sided with them. The organizers of the match and the president of the Progressive Youth Club – Reza Razi finds it hard to digest such a “defeat.”