Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kodinar Junagadh District News – Shilpa Vala Volleyball Master from Saurashtra

When the nearly six-feet-tall Shilpa Vala catches a flight to Kuala Lumpur to represent India in the Asian Youth Girls Championships starting on May 20, she will become only the second girl from Gujarat to represent the country in volleyball.

But in Kodinar Town, her small hometown in Junagadh District, people may not be surprised. Volleyball runs in her genes. So much so that her four other sisters too play competitive volleyball. Shilpa's younger sister Geeta is a blocker.

She didn't make the cut for Kuala Lumpur, but is among the standbys. Elder sisters Shobhna (now working in a private firm in Junagadh) and Varsha have represented Gujarat. The youngest, Chetna, has already played two sub-junior nationals. In fact, when Gujarat beat Himachal Pradesh to win the gold at the National School Games near Gwalior in 2007, the entire team comprised of the Vala sisters. Varsha, Geeta and Shilpa teamed up with their cousins Parita, Nehal and Alpa. Shilpa's uncle and Parita's father Varjagha Vala was the coach. Despite the natural talent, life has not been easy for the Vala sisters as their father Maraman Vala, a small farmer, could barely make ends meet. Besides, their conservative Rajput community did not appreciate women playing competitive sport. "People would gossip behind our backs about the short dresses we wore while playing volleyball," Shilpa says.

"Who will marry these girls, they would ask. How can their parents let them stay away from home for days together? There was also fear of our family being boycotted. But our parents only encouraged us."

"Though I am not well-educated, I knew my daughters would do well if they studied and played hard. So I decided to support them," says Vala who arrived at the Sports Authority of India centre in Gandhinagar on Tuesday to see his daughters at a camp held there.

The achievements of the girls have brought more acceptances for the family. "People come to meet us and ask about our experiences. Volleyball is very popular in our village so some even come for training. Things are changing," says Shilpa.

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