Senorita Nongpluh was among the lucky footballers from the state who got her break at a young age. The 13-year-old player is currently associated with FC Pune City. She created quite a stir last February when she got onto the field as a substitute during the first semi-final of the inaugural edition of the Indian Women’s League against Odisha’s Rising Student’s Union in Delhi. She was then 12 and the youngest in the league.
The young striker is staying in Pune since she was one year old as the family shifted to the city in 2004 because of her father’s job.
It was her father, Chirup Pamthieb (in picture with Senorita), a history teacher in a school in Pune, who first discovered the talent in his youngest child.
“My son plays football and was with FC Pune City’s U-16 team. My elder daughter too played well but she was never interested in pursuing the game. It was Senorita who was an avid follower of football and both of us would watch all matches together. We still do. From a tender age she was enthusiastic about playing football and I started training her,” says Panthieb on the phone from Pune.
Panthieb, himself a footballer who had represented Meghalaya in Santosh Trophy, says Senorita plays like a boy. “She has the strength and is too good with the ball,” adds the proud father who started training her younger daughter when she was only four.
The coach says though she is short, her skills are enough to overcome the drawback. “She has won many tournaments and there is no one in the same age group who can beat her.”
Senorita says as a child she found football interesting. Later, her father inspired her to hone her skills and her brother, who had also been to Argentina, too showed her the way. And then came Lionel Messi. “He is my favourite and watching his games I got more inspired to pursue the game,” she adds.
Senorita was initially with Pune FC’s U-12 squad in 2014 but after the club shut business, she was inducted into FC Pune City’s senior squad. The player says she is gradually getting used to the city as the weather is good and she has friends now. “People in the club are also supportive,” she says.
The player has a tough life and practises for around four hours every day. Her day starts at 5 in the morning with two hours of practice. Then she rushes to school. After coming back from school and a few hours’ rest, she again goes out for practice, informs the Class VIII student.
The Shillong girl says being a striker is not easy as the expectations are high. “A striker needs more energy as she or he has to pass through the defenders. They make a team win,” she explains.
Last year, when Senorita came home for summer vacation, she was asked by a local village school to play for its team in the Subroto Cup. But things turned unpleasant after the first match as Senorita was barred from playing. “They thought probably I was better than the school team. But I was told that since I was not a student of the school I would not be able to play,” narrates the player.
Despite the bitter experience, Senorita wants to come back to her home state and represent the local team. Her father too wants her to play for Meghalaya.
Talking about the young talents in Meghalaya, Senorita says the state needs more leagues so that the Indian team as a whole becomes stronger. “Often players have to be trained for national tournaments. But if we can recognise natural players and trained footballers at the state level then things become easier.”
Panthieb too points out the fallacies. He says his state is way behind Maharashtra and other states when it comes to girls’ football.
“In my state, the girls have immense talent but most of the families do not have the resources to support their wards. They cannot afford special trainings for their children. Where is the Sports Department? There should be help from the government for both girls and boys,” he adds.
Besides football, Senorita loves writing and listening to music but rarely gets leisure time. All she wants is to work harder to improve her skills so that she can live up to the expectations of her father and her coaches at FC Pune City.