NEW DELHI: Women were literal infiltrators into the male dominated world of sports over a 100 years ago when they first participated in the Olympics. First the ellitist and upper class women came in, enjoying sports as a leisure and then over the years, it became a career option for many with a passion. But it still remains a gruelling option for women, even more so in South Asia and India.

“When I used to play hockey back then in 1960s, we were so scared to tell anyone that I play hockey because that led to our character assassination. I simply followed whatever the authorities asked me to do, we were afraid to be thrown out of the team.” said Bula Ganguly (65), secretary of U.P Women’s Hockey Association.

While recalling her earlier days she further added “I used to cry a lot whenever my mother restricted me, from going to the stadium. I simply used to complete all the chores of the day, so that I could go to play Hockey. There was no funding for the teams. The condition was so bad that we had to share the same kit with two to three girls.”

In recent years, women have excelled in many sports like weightlifting, hockey, wrestling etc. that were not considered feminine by the patriarchs. But they still have various other issues to tackle.

Divya Verma (55), District Sports Officer, Varanasi spoke of some of the factors demotivating girls to be a sportsperson: “There is no proper coaching for women in sports. Parents do not want their daughters to choose sports as a career. They consider that sports are waste of time for girls. There are no jobs for women through sports as compared to men.”

"Sports will always be a secondary option for girls because education is of utmost importance and cannot be avoided. This can be totally blamed on the Government which provides insufficient funds for women’s association,” she added.

Ganguly, runs a private association, they enroll girls and Coach them in Lucknow. She is one of the very few women in Uttar Pradesh who is totally dedicated to hockey and wants girls to do well in the Sport. “Sports are now more of politics. Coaches are inefficient and are recruited on the basis of their influence. I have dedicated my whole life for hockey, I haven’t married just so that I can be more focused towards the betterment of the sport and for women’s hockey, still I was fired from my position because of some male chauvinist in the department,” she said.

Girls face a lot of problems in travelling to stadiums. Safety is the biggest concern for their parents. In order to reach for practice at 5:30 in the morning, they have to start off at the crack of dawn or even earlier when the streets are deserted and skies are dark. This is certainly not safe. Hostel facilities for girls are deplorable. For instance there is only one hostel for sportswomen In UP, a symbol of the disparity of attitude even by the state and by society towards female players as compared to males.

Even after breaking through the manacles of stereotyping and battling society to pursue their dreams, there is still another stumbling block on the way which is getting a job to earn a living. This is an issue which women face even when they have achieved international acclaim.

Eti Srivastava (35), Staff at Western Railway in Mumbai shares her experience. "I started playing hockey at a very young age and then played at the international level. Four years ago when I delivered my twins, I could not resume my career as a hockey player as I was not perceived as competent. And to find a job was very very difficult.”