If you had to have a look at the map of India, Umthli is a dot on the map of Meghalaya. The residents aren’t financially well-off and the internet connectivity is patchy. However, as they say, there is no stopping hard work and determination and the girls from Umthli Secondary School are proof.
The team walked away as the winners of 2017-18 National Finals of the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS). They won each of their eight matches, scoring 87 goals and conceding only four. Wandashisha Marwein was the standout performer who impressed one and all with her goal scoring abilities. In fact, she was so impressive on the field that she was shortlisted among four players called to Goa to join the camp for the U-17 Women’s World Cup team after a scouting exercise conducted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) along with RFYS in 2019.
“Winning the RFYS National Championships was the most special experience I have ever had in football. Our school only has girls from classes 8 to 10, but at this tournament we were playing against schools who fielded teams that had girls from classes 8 to 12. So, they were bigger but we were able to beat them. It was also very special to be shortlisted for the trials of the U-17 Women’s World Cup squad,” says Wandashisha, whose mother is a daily wage earner and the sole provider for her and three older brothers.
Unfortunately, an injury forced her to return from Goa, squashed her hopes of making the final cut. However, she savours the exposure this experience brought along.
When one talks of performers, their coach is of high value. 32-year-old Baiatylli Nongkynrih, the sports in-charge at Umthli Secondary School is the force behind the athletes’ impressive performance. She began her stint with the school after working as a pharmaceuticals distribution agent for five years. Baiatylli has represented Meghalaya at the national level, both in athletics and football.
“Competing in the RFYS Competition has helped the players with discipline, competitive preparedness mentally and physically, not only at the local level but the national level as well. They were ready to face any challenges - at every step of the tournament starting from the city leg to the zonals then the Nationals,” she says.
The success of her team led Baia to attend the RFYS sponsored AIFF’s D-License programme for coaches in 2018. The programme allowed her to upskill her coaching knowledge and she is now targeting a C-license in a few years.