In a country that favours cricket over other sports, a group of women from Ladakh have raised nearly $50,000 through crowdfunding to train and compete for an upcoming ice hockey championship—The Challenge Cup of Asia

On a frozen pond somewhere in the mountains of Ladakh, a group of young women practice ice hockey in the dead of winter. They use second-hand equipment, make do with a lack of dedicated coach, and face all kinds of obstacles to follow their passion.

Ice hockey to Ladakh is what cricket is like to the rest of the country. The frozen ponds are their playground, and for years now, Ladakh has hosted several championships in the sport. The focus has, however, always been on the boys.

Noor Jahan, a 27-year-old athlete has been involved in the sport since 2005. She joined teams Ladakh Winter Sports Club in 2006 and later Siachen Angels. She now represents the Women’s India Ice Hockey team as a goalkeeper, and won the Best Goaltender Award in last year’s Challenge Cup of Asia in Taipei.

“We normally practice on our own, on frozen ponds around Leh. We don’t have a dedicated coach, but get one closer to a competition. Our national camp has a dedicated coach from the association,” Noor told The Outdoor Journal over email.

“I was inspired by my brother to try ice hockey. When I expressed serious interest in it, my parents were initially a little hesitant, and wanted me to focus on studies. But then when I joined the women’s team and started playing inter-club tournaments, my father made it a point to accompany me and support me at every match,” she said.

“I want to take our Indian women ice hockey to an international level, and promote the sport vigorously amongst young girls,” Noor said, when asked what her future goals were.

The Indian Ice Hockey Association launched a crowdfunding campaign in February 2017, to raise money for the women’s team, so that they could train for and compete in the the upcoming Challenge Cup of Asia in Thailand.

Harjinder Singh, General Secretary of Indian Ice Hockey Association explained to The Outdoor Journal in a telephone conversation, “We ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for the boys hockey team in 2015. We then decided to do it for the girls in 2016. We were hoping to get government funding in 2016, but that did not happen, though nine of our girls had their passports issued with no trouble. So we plugged in our own funds and got them to compete in Taipei. This year, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to generate funds and raise awareness.”

The crowdfunding campaign has generated nearly $50,000 with people from all corners of the planet donating funds.

The girls completed their training session in Kyrgyzstan and reached Thailand last week to compete at the Challenge Cup of Asia from 7th to 16th March.

Feature Image © Indian Ice Hockey Association

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