Kendrapara (Odisha): Rashmita Patra, a 23-year-old woman of Aul block in Kendrapara district, runs a small betel leaves shop. So, what`s the big deal?
Well, only three years ago Rashmita used to be an international woman footballer. She represented India as a defender in the U-16 AFC women`s qualifying competition at Kuala Lumper in 2008. She played for the country again in senior AFC qualification round at Dhaka in 2011. In the same year, she played in Bahrain where India`s senior women`s team won the series by 2-1.
Then there was a slide in her form and soon she was removed from the team. And now, sitting in her betel leaf shop, she said, "Football has given me name, fame and recognition. But it did not provide me the opportunity for a decent living."
"After I was dropped from the team, I began searching for a job. But that was not to be. My spouse is a traditional inland fisherman. His earning was not much. That`s why I opted to open a betel leaf shop to augment the family`s income," said Rashmita, who married last year.
On how she started playing the game, she said she began at the age of 12 under the guidance of her mentor and coach Chitta Ranjan Patra. "I had to sacrifice my childhood for the game. My education was cut short for the game. Those wonderful playing days haunt me now," she said, her voice choked with emotion.
A fan of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, Rashmita said she felt dejected and disillusioned while watching the World Cup. "Players elsewhere are well nurtured and well paid. But it is not the case in Odisha. People and sports administrators here have the habit of forgetting players once they are past their prime," she said.
Rashmita represented Odisha when the state won the football championship in Bhilai in 2010.
Describing Rashmita as an "outstanding defender", her former teammate Alochana Senapati said, "She was a great teammate... An asset whom we could depend on. I am shocked to know of her condition."
Senapati, who was a centre forward in Indian football team, has got a job in the state police.
Kendrapara Collector Pramod Kumar Dash said, "The sports and youth affairs wing is being directed to look into the plight of Rashmita. She failed to get a job perhaps because she was not a matriculate."