It’s My Game: Anju Turambekar
Kuala Lumpur: Football’s remarkable impact on the life of Anju Turambekar, the Head of Grassroots for the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and also a member of the AFC Grassroots Panel, is featured in the latest episode of ‘It’s My Game’ which celebrates women in Asian football.
Turambekar emerged from humble beginnings in a small village in Kolhapur, India but her rapid rise in the sport has truly been commendable. Determined to chase her dreams, the diminutive Turambekar reflects on the challenges she faced as a child and how it has inspired her to promote the sport at the grassroots level.
“My parents are farmers and I had no sports background. I used to help my parents on the farm but at the same time, I developed an interest in sports. In high school, I noticed that girls were playing football and that’s when I started to enjoy playing the sport.
“I come from a conventional family and it was very stressful to work on a farm and do house chores while focusing on my studies. So, football helped me forget everything,” said the physical education graduate.
She admits that it was difficult to persuade her parents to allow her to play football as the sport was regarded as a “men’s game”.
“When I started playing for the state team, that’s when people started talking about me and my parents began to trust me. Before that, people looked at me and said: ‘This girl is trying to play a men’s game.”
In her role as the Head of Grassroots for AIFF, Turambekar is focused on expanding the reach of the game in the world’s second most populous country where football, though not traditionally the most popular sport, have witnessed a dramatic rise in the last decade.
“I missed out on grassroots football, a period when I was supposed to learn how to play. But I’ve seen the entire ecosystem in India – from villages, to the state and the country – and now I have a chance to make a change,” she said.
From working on a farm to becoming a role model for young girls in India, Turambekar encapsulates the role of a pioneer and trailblazer, setting the bar with numerous milestones in her football career.
She is the first and youngest woman to earn her AFC ‘A’ License in coaching in India and was part of the KNVB International Coaching course and FIFA Grassroots Leaders Course. She also represented India as a coach in the Sports United Female Soccer Delegation.
Turambekar is also a former elite player for India and has travelled across the country to educate coaches and instructors.
“I strive to be a better professional and keep my values high while encouraging people to treat every day as a learning curve. There’s a lot to be done at the grassroots level in India and Asia and I am determined to do my best to promote the sport which has given so much to me.”
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