Ombung’s Journey from Playing to Coaching

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Ombunglahangma Subhara Rai, who prefers to be called as Ombung Rai,  a graduate of the WE Coach Nepal program, has inspired many girls in her community in Udayapur district in Koshi Province, through football.

The Beginning
Ombung’s love for football started in her village, where girls were expected to stay home and do chores while boys played outside. “We watched them play and we got interested in playing,” Ombung remembers. “Our parents didn’t allow us to go out, so we used to quickly finish all the housework and go out to play for some time.” Determined to play, Ombung and her friends practiced kicking and passing the ball by the riverbanks near their homes. They didn’t have proper equipment, so they played barefoot and saved money to buy a ball.

They practiced kicking and passing the ball at river banks near their houses. Despite facing many challenges, Ombung and her friends never gave up.  En Kumar Rai, a local football player noticed them and offered to train them. They were ecstatic but they didn’t have proper shoes and jerseys and they had a deflated ball but no pump. Even without shoes or jerseys, their passion kept them going. They were one of the first girls in their village to play football, breaking traditional barriers and setting an example for others.

Making History
Nobody in the village knew the benefits of playing sports. Parents think that there is no career playing football in Nepal, no income, hence they don’t encourage their kids to be involved in any sporting activities. But Ombung and her friends wanted to change this perception. They were determined to break barriers. A big moment came when Ombung’s team played their first competitive match against a girls’ team from Chatara, Sunsari. She recalls this moment as nerve-wracking, exciting, and memorable. This was their first competitive match and the first time playing with football shoes on. “We were so uncomfortable playing with the shoes that at the end of the match, we all took off our shoes and played barefoot,” she chuckles. Ombung and her team ended up winning that match.

This victory was a turning point. Community organizers then started organizing girls’ tournaments as well. Ombung’s team won their first tournament organized by their municipality. It was an unforgettable moment for her when the whole community came to watch and cheer for their team. “I still remember the hooting and cheering for our team. It was a proud moment for us as we did something unprecedented. Our families were extremely proud of us.”

Becoming a Leader
Ombung’s journey took a new turn when she received an opportunity to train under Coach Bhagawati Rana Magar, a well-known figure in Nepalese women’s football. “We were all very happy. That was our first time training under a female professional coach,” says Ombung. This training led her to Kathmandu, where she joined the Dare-to-Shine coaching program organized by The WE United Project. “There were ten coaches who participated in the program. We were all from different regions and backgrounds but shared similar interests and challengesin our communities and together, we worked on finding solutions. We shared our experiences and learned from each other,” Ombung recalls.

After graduating from the WE Coach Nepal program in 2019, Ombung became a Mentor Coach, guiding ten girls to become football coaches and empowered leaders in Sunsari district in 2023. “Being a mentor increased my leadership skills. I felt more responsible,” she says.

Today, Ombung coaches a team of around 15 girls in Udayapur under WE United. She is also actively engaged with WE United’s work with Equal Play Effect- Asia & Pacific, attending workshops to advance gender equity in football. Ombung’s journey from the riverbanks of Udayapur to becoming a coach proves that with determination and support, barriers can be broken. Her journey has not only changed her life but has also inspired many young girls in her village to dream big and achieve their goals.

Ombung Rai is one of the graduated coaches of the WEcoachNepal X DaretoShine program organized by WE United in 2019. Ombung is currently studying in her fourth year of Bachelors in Business Studies (BBS), and working part-time as a Coach with WE United. She wants to continue coaching football once she graduates her studies.