Over many eras, well past beautiful, to the far side of the Other World lies Mugu district in Nepal. The days are very very tough for most people there, but particularly for women. Life expectancy in Mugu is 49 years for men, 39 for women. Literacy rate in general is 27%, but for women, 9%. Sixty-three percent of girls aged 15 to 19 are married.
Sunakali, above in front, does not so much think much about statistics as feel them. Though she had never left her remote Himalayan district, she felt the scorn of the developed world and the anguish of being somehow less. Sunakali and her home girls, who were introduced to the beautiful game in 2011, latched onto the sport with both hands, took the proverbial ball and ran with it. With courage and passion, the girls developed an understanding of their strength and the true power of the game.
Journalist Bhojraj Bhat directed a documentary of team Mugu's mighty struggle, glorious victory and triumphant return, warriors bringing honor to their people. This is the trailer for the film, which will debut in July in Kathmandu, and below that, the story in still photos.
Sunakali (center) with her friends.
Sunakali (second from left) with her father, mother and three younger brothers.
The girls collect firewood.
Girls work from dawn til dusk every day.
Team Humla's home field, leveled by hand by women of the village.
Humla's goalie on the home field.
Team Mugu lost to Humla.
Having suffered a crushing defeat to the team from Humla, the girls nonetheless got the opportunity to play in a national tournament in Kailali. They walked two days to get to the airstrip. Mugu was connected by gravel road to the rest of Nepal in late 2012.
It was the first time any of the girls had left Mugu district. Or ridden in an airplane. Or an ox cart.
The girls were not dismayed by their first encounter with sophisticated peers. The city girls tired after ten or fifteen minutes but team Mugu, used to hard work, ran the entire 90 minutes.
Sunakali (in orange) scored a hat trick, and team Mugu won their first game.
The agony of defeat, but this time it was Humla's turn to cry.
Three games, three goals later, team Mugu won the national championship.
The other World Cup.
Parents and people of Mugu met the champions at the airstrip, which took 25 years to build.
VIP service for the two-day trek home.
Women of Mugu never ride. But football champions of Mugu do.
They were given heroes' welcome.
"When I hit a goal," said Sunakali, "I was happy, and I thought I could hit another." True warriors, the girls played the beautiful game. And won.
Below is another excerpt from the documentary entitled Sunakali.
All still photography by Prakash KC.