From Dribbler to Pedaller: Bengal’s International Woman Footballer Works for Zomato
Poulumi Adhikary has represented India at the U-16 level in Scotland, Germany and Sri Lanka.
First, she dribbled for India. Now, she pedals food for Indians. That’s the sad story of 24-year-old Poulumi Adhikary, a woman footballer from West Bengal who represented India at the U-16 level in Scotland, Germany and Sri Lanka but now works as a Zomato agent.
A video shared by Twitter user @SanjuktaChoudh5 showing Adhikary mentioning her journey has gone viral with 166,400 views, 2,230 likes, 872 retweets and 78 quote tweets.
In the video, Adhikary, a resident of Shivrampur, in Kolkata’s Behala suburb, describes how she barely manages to earn Rs 300-Rs 400 daily as a food delivery agent with no income on some days. The third-year student of Charuchandra College, who lost her mother when she was only two months, stays at her maternal uncle’s house. Her elder sister is married and their father is a driver.
Several reporters interviewed Adhikary after the video was tweeted. “I really need a job. Please, arrange a job for me as per my qualifications,” Adhikary appealed to the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
“Even after representing India at the international level, I have to deliver food to feed my family. Is this what I deserve?” she asks.
Poulumi Adhikary has appealed to the AIFF to arrange a job for her as per her qualifications.
Describing the difference between the state’s men’s and women’s football teams, Adhikary says, “A member of the Bengal men’s team makes a lot of money. But in women’s football, there’s no money. Recognition or respect is a far cry; no one checks if a female footballer has boots or whether she had proper lunch.”
On January 7, AIFF president and BJP leader Kalyan Chaubey released a road map called ‘Vision 2047’ in New Delhi with the goal of developing India into a new powerhouse of Asian football. “With a shared vision and by sharing responsibility, we can implement targeted programmes to address key areas identified in this road map and help build capacity for the football ecosystem,” he said.
Adhikary’s story, however, tells a different story. In 2016, she played for the country in the Homeless World Cup. In 2013, she represented India in the Under-16 AFC Asian Cup qualifying round. She has also played in various tournaments for Calcutta University and the IFA.
Now, she struggles to make a daily living. “I have given up hope. I think I will never play football again. I have to support my family by delivering food online. The media highlighted my story after the video went viral. But it cannot arrange for me to play football again or eat.”
Adhikary, who practises regularly, wanted to be famous by playing for the country. “I did not want to be famous through this video. I still want to play football. I need a job. I can’t play on an empty stomach. I humbly request the government, Federation and IFA to provide me with a job so I can continue playing.”
Adhikary was among the players shortlisted during the national team trials in 2020. The first six players were called to play for the national team. Her name was in the seventh spot. Unfortunately, according to her, the pandemic hit the country.
Although she is number one on the waiting list of players for the national team, she has not received a call. According to reports, the AIFF called her after the video went viral. She told Federation officials that she needs a job to continue playing.
Kanika Burman, a female referee who is part of FIFA and AFC panels, said, “As long as the girls are in the game, the Federation looks after them. But the moment they stop playing, the Federation forgets them within a day. The same thing happened to me after I quit playing. The Federation focuses only on men’s football. In many cases, girls do not get support from their families.”
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.