Football has the power to change lives - read our players' stories
At first glance she looks like any other woman going about her work. It is only when you approach her and start talking you realize that Sheetal Kimmatkar, aged 39 years, profoundly Deaf. Despite that, the way she has overcome society stereotypes by empowering herself is an inspiration and worthy of emulation.
At first glance she looks like any other woman going about her work. It is only when you approach her and start talking you realize that Sheetal Kimmatkar, aged 39 years, profoundly Deaf. Despite that, the way she has overcome society stereotypes by empowering herself is an inspiration and worthy of emulation.Can you imagine that despite being D/deaf, her friends and colleagues have nicknamed her ‘Chatterbox’? That is Sheetal for you; her personality always exuding exuberance and energy.
Sheetal’s deafness was diagnosed at the age of 3. While Sheetal’s parents and her younger brother are hearing, her elder brother was Deaf with a learning disability. “In my neighborhood children did not want to play with me and felt uncomfortable around me. Some even teased me for my disability” conveys Sheetal in Indian Sign Language accompanied by expressive facial gestures. She would only step out of her house when she was accompanied by her parents.
Even though there was no formal education available for D/deaf children beyond the 10th standard, she persevered in her studies and succeeded in graduating in Commerce stream.While she was studying, she also learnt typing and trained as a beautician to improve her job prospects. She worked as a data entry operator and took up part-time typing assignments to be financially independent. Unfortunately, because she couldn’t speak, she was overloaded with work while her colleagues took the credit for it. Sheetal rues that most D/deaf people face this kind of hardship and discrimination in the workplace.
While exploring extra-curricular opportunities she developed keen interest in magic and started performing shows. In 2014, she got a chance to perform in Chicago, US and was awarded the 2nd prize. She also had the opportunity to perform in Lithuania, Europe and won in categories of best performance and comedy.
In 2006, Sheetal got married to Tushar Kimmatkar who is partially Deaf. She has a son who is hearing and studies in 6th grade.
Since her childhood she always felt that there weren’t enough opportunities in Deaf schools for students to play sport or learn basic life skills. Never the one to remain satisfied with her achievements and always eager to explore innovative ideas and new areas, she grabbed the opportunity of joining Slum Soccer’s DeafKidz Goal! Project.Initially, she was apprehensive of her ability to play football, let alone coach D/deaf children in the game. She credits Slum Soccer coaches for helping her to learn football skills fast. “After attending sessions at Slum Soccer’s headquarters and undergoing training from their international trainers and partners, I can feel the remarkable positive change in my capabilities and confidence!” Sheetal marvels at her transformation at Slum Soccer.
After 5 months at Slum Soccer, today, as a D/deaf coach of Slum Soccer, she confidently and competently teaches D/deaf children football and life skills through football.
“I take pride in the fact that I am not only instrumental in providing an opportunity for D/deaf children to play football but also, more importantly, contributing my skills to making the future of children within the D/deaf community better and brighter.”
Never to remain content with status-quo, Sheetal aims to hone her football skills further and dreams of getting ready a team of D/deaf players who can represent India. Going forward, she plans to be an entrepreneur.
By now, she has, perhaps, achieved much more than many of her hearing counterparts. Yet she is forever ready to forge ahead in life’s journey on un-trodden paths, eager to achieve greater success in territories seemingly unchartered for an Indian D/deaf person.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. -‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Lee Fros
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