Life in Gurgaon

Gurugram’s Choma Eagles: Soccer champs who are winning over life

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With razor-sharp focus and determination to sail through tough times, the Choma Eagles — an all-girls’ football team of the Millennium City — sure know how to keep an eye on the ball. They present formidable competition in the football circuit and are no less than the celebrities in their locality.

The team from the slums of Gurugram are winning laurels on the field, and triumphing over problems in life. For Anjali, the game is helping her fight sexism at home. She shares that once her pictures started appearing in the paper, “tab se ghar ka kaam nahin karna padta hai”. She tells us that her mother used to love her brother more, now “she treats us as equals”.

As for 13-year-old Vandana, who used to study at a government school, the sport has helped her get into a private school. For 15-year-old Sulekha, the daughter of a domestic help, the sports helped her escape “slavery” and “even when there is no money to repair” her bicycle, there is “happiness in kicking the ball on the field”.

These players come from homes where getting two square meals a day is a challenge, but shining bright on their shelves are the trophies that they have won at state and national level competitions. The smiles on their faces are a result of the efforts of Lt Col (Retd) Pradeep Kumar Chowdhri and former Army School principal, Anjana Chowdhri. The husband-wife duo is mentoring more than 40 underprivileged girls.

“We did not realise when the love, and affection [for them] began, and now, we are emotionally attached to each one of them. We know their personality traits that even their parents wouldn’t know. The best part is that despite facing so many problems in their life, they are smiling. And once they start earning, they’ll be on their own. We are not going to leave them until then. We are trying to contact people so that we can give them an education in the field they are good in,” says Anjana, who even travels with them in local buses and has stayed with them in dharamshalas and gurudwaras.

Pradeep adds, “The team from the slums of Gurugram has fought against all odds to win the hearts of football fans. The families of these girls live in abject poverty. Their parents are migrant labourers who have come here to earn a living. Their parents do odd jobs as manual labourers, drivers, and tailors, while their mothers work as domestic helps in Palam Vihar.”

The team is supported by the couple through Choma Eagles Trust, which helps them with not just professional training but also food, academics, as well as a vocational future. “We have friends pitching in to help them financially and professionally,” says Pradeep. Here’s how the sport has become a gamechanger in the lives of these slum kids.

I don’t get sick ever since football’