Dhanbad: She once dribbled the football and brought laurels for her state and country in international soccer tournaments, but is now reduced to penuary and forced to fiddle with leaves to give them shapes of bowls and plates. The same is sold in the market to eke out a living. The football dreams have been ruined in the stark reality of grinding poverty and as such, managing food has become a top priority rather than practicing in the soccer field to hone up her skills further. The lockdown has almost broken the family backbone and as such 18-year-old Sangeeta Soren, who is an international football player, is now collecting leaves from the adjoining forest in Baghmara area of Dhanbad and weaves them in plates and bowls and sells them in the market to eke out a living. Her ailing father needs to be attended and medicines given to him regularly. Her elder brother who worked as a daily wage earner got little work during the lockdown and as such, the family was more or less reduced to starvation. The family owns small patches of land which is just not enough to sustain them. Besides, the vagaries of nature have made the land completely undependable. So now, Sangeeta Soren sets out early in the morning on her daily errand to the forest, collecting green leaves that can be put together to make plates and bowls to be sold in the market. The earning is meagre, yet the family has no option. In the absence of work, whatever can be done to earn atleast two square meals a day is being done.

Sumeet Kumar, a relative, recalled how Sangeeta Soren took to football at an early age and excelled. Soon, she filled her house with trophies, but the trophies can’t be converted to bread to feed the family, he lamented. He said, “Even now, she goes out everyday to the Barwadda stadium to practise football.”

Sangeeta Soren was among the two players from Jharkhand to represent the country in international tournaments in below 19 category. The world admired her skills when she broke the defences of Bhutan and Thiland and scored one goal after the other for her country. Now, the goal post has completely shifted for her. For her, the thin fragile frame of her ailing father is like an ugly reality that has shaken her awake from her dreams and like a true player, she has taken up the responsibility of her family.

“During the lockdown, we were left with no food grains at our home. We were almost starving, so we needed food. So now, I collect leaves and make plates and bowls from them. I have played a lot and still want to play,” she said.

Her videos of collecting leaves from the forest and making plates went viral on the social media. The same was brought to the notice of the Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. The CM tweeted in her support and asked the authorities to extend a helping hand. But till the time of filing of this report, not a single government representative had cared to even establish contact with Sangeeta Soren. She said, “I have nine members in my family. The financial health of the family is very bad. I have a burning desire to bring awards for my country. That is only possible if the state goverment helps me with a job. I will live up to the expectations of everyone.”