Changing course of Football for women in NE
Driven by the love of football, propelled by his passion towards the game, Hem Das has been a pillar of strength for the budding talents of the region for decades now.
A happy-go-lucky man who dedicated his life to coaching young footballers and never parted with his shorts, Das has also been running a football academy for girls in Rani along with his prominent Guwahati Young Star Football Coaching Centre at the Nehru Stadium.
Speaking to TNT- The Northeast Today, the coach speaks on a number of aspects surrounding the football scenario in the state as well as the plight of women's football.
Regarding the current scenario, Das said, "To be frankly speaking, I want to leave football but that isn't happening. It has been decades since I have been coaching young footballers but the scene is very bad today. No one is bothered regarding the development of the game; they are just there for their selfish motives. Only because the secretary of the Assam Football Association doesn't like me, my age old coaching centre which has so far produced over a dozen internationals was not included amongst the grassroots youth development centre's under the All India Football Federation."
On being asked about his journey with the women's football academy at the Rani High School ground, the coach said: "It all started way back in 2010 and it still remains the only academy for girls in Guwahati and its adjoining areas. One of the main problems with it is due to the financial constraints and the girls are typically prepared for their matrimonial send off by the age of eighteen. There are currently 25 girls and I impart training on Saturdays and Sundays while they practice on their own on Tuesdays."
Das, who is also the coach of the Food Corporation of India Sports Club has been investing both time and money in order to provide the girls tournament exposure. The Guwahati Sports Association which usually is responsible for sending the district team to any inter district tournament denied financial assistance last year.
"This was the first time Guwahati made their appearance at a women's under-19 inter district tournament and all the players were from my academy. As I approached the GSA authorities, they asked me to send the team although they were denied any financial assistance. I had to pay the entire expenses although it was good to see my team making it to the quarter-finals. I am looking forward to do the same this year," Das added.
Asked about the initial stage, Das recalls saying, "The parents were reluctant to send their daughters to be coached for football. The sport and any amount spent for it is perceived as rather unnecessary. But I took care of it and I provided them with everything required to play. The only thing is that I am really passionate about football and I wish to see these girls achieving big. Some of them have been taken back and married off. There was a time when I had about fifty girls coaching under me."
Lamenting on the lacklustre attitude of business establishments as well as corporate giants, Das said, "It's really very sad that sponsors are not at all coming in aid to support the cause. We have approached a number of them but to no avail."
The Guwahati Young Star Football Coaching Centre (GYFCC) celebrated its silver jubilee in 2005 and has so far produced a number of Indian internationals like Francis Barua, Lakheswar Kakoty, Sushanta Mazumdar, Sanjoy Boro and Mintu Boro while two of his wards — Allen Deuri and Durga Boro featured in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League.