By Amarnath Tewary
Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Kaka and David Beckham are unlikely icons among girls in a remote village in the dirt-poor Indian state of Bihar.
Barauni's girls live for football (Photos: Prashant Ravi)
The girls of Barauni village in Begusarai district eat, drink and sleep football and stay up all night to catch their favourite teams at the World Cup on television.
"How can we miss it? We get a chance only once in four years," says Mausam Kumari, who is rooting for Germany.
The girls of Barauni are not only mad about football, they also play the game with a lot of passion - three girls from the village have played in the national women's team, and seven others have been in the state team.
In a near-lawless district - over 100 people have died in political killings in one village alone - the achievements of Barauni's football girls have gone largely unnoticed.
The girls here are so mad about the game that they have a village football club, which even became the women's club champions in India four years ago.
Bihar's state football team is ranked fourth in India.
The laurels of the girls of Barauni have contributed to the state's impressive performance.
One of them is Anu Kumari, daughter of a poor farmer, who has played for the under-17 women's Indian squad seven times in a row and recently travelled to Malaysia and China for the national team.
Mausam Kumari, who is the captain for the village football club, is confident that if the girls of Barauni are given better facilities to train, they can beat any women's team in the world.
Shilu's farmer father, Rajkumar Singh, is happy with her success
"We just, eat, sleep and breathe football," she says.
The state government does not seem to be even aware of the champion girls of Barauni - only a local politician has contributed 3,000 rupees ($65) to the club.
Unlike many other Indian states, none of the girls who have played for the state have been given jobs by the government.
Why do the girls of Barauni excel in football?
"They are more disciplined and they show greater energy to excel. The boys here play football too but they are inconsistent and undisciplined," says coach Sanjiv Kumar Singh.
It also helps that Barauni has a tradition of sports - the village even has a playing ground and a new six-acre stadium is being built.
Parents also encourage their daughters to play football.
"Initially, I had a lot of doubts. But today I feel proud of being father to my two national football playing daughters, Shilu and Neelum," says Rajkumar Singh, even as he grazes his buffaloes and earns about 2000 rupees ($43) a month.
With eight primary schools, two middle schools, one high school and a college, Barauni takes its education seriously too.
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It is also rare for a village in Bihar to receive an electricity supply for up to 20 hours a day, as Barauni does thanks to nearby factories.
"But it is basically the spirit of sports that binds this village together," says Bhola Singh, secretary of the women's football club.
Others say that sports has helped the villagers to bury their caste differences in a state which is infamous for its intense caste politics.
So much so that now the villagers are planning to rename their village as Barauni Khelgaon (Barauni sports village).
The champion football girls of Barauni can definitely take credit for the new moniker.