On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the Indian women’s football team skipper’s shares her dream…
Ashalata Devi is one of the softspoken players in the Indian squad. But beneath the calm demeanour, there is character forged in fire. She is the perfect embodiment of the phrase, ‘action speaks louder than words.’
When she was discouraged and rebuked by her family for playing football in childhood she would silently sneak out and go to practice. Braving the naysayers in her close quarters she has followed her heart and now she is the captain of the Indian women’s football team.
On the field, she remains calm and composed but does not hold back her aggression if the opposition striker tries to be cheeky.
” I just say it on the face, that don’t try to rub me off or challenge me. I will go for the ball,” stated Ashalata to Goal without mincing words.
She hates to get dribbled past in one-on-one situations but is not shy to acknowledge if a striker has troubled her.
“We were playing against Romania in Turkey. Their forward, who was also the captain (Florentina Olar-Spânu) was simply brilliant. It was difficult to contain her. She is the mother of a child and yet she is so fit and skilful,” reminisced the player.
India is currently ranked 53rd in the world and the defender thinks that a change in approach and playing more friendlies against stronger opponents has helped the team get better.
“There has been a change in outlook. We are focussing on fitness and diet. These things were not done even a few years back. We have played a lot of friendly matches in these past two-three years. That counts a lot. We have won some good matches that helped in rankings. Also having Maymol (Rocky) ma’am as a coach has helped us. She is a helpful and smart coach.”
However, she believes that Indian football has the potential to achieve greater things and for that, the domestic structure needs to be strengthened. She lauded AIFF (All India Football Federation) for introducing an Indian Arrows team for women which would take part in the next IWL (India Women’s League), but at the same time urged Indian Super League (ISL) teams to introduce women’s team for the betterment of Indian football.
“We play in IWL. But there are not many teams. It will be great if ISL teams join IWL and float a women’s team. We will get to play a lot more matches and we need to have a long league.
“The Indian Arrows football team is a great initiative by the AIFF. At that age, we had never thought of playing football in a professional league. They are getting such an opportunity at a young age it will help them greatly. The senior team will be benefitted as well.”
The country will host the AFC Asian Cup in 2022 and although the Indian team is assured of a berth by virtue of being the hosts, Ashalata wants to get an entry on merit rather than privilege.
“We want to qualify on merit by participating in the qualifiers. But I also want to qualify for the World Cup before I hang up my boots. That is my dream. I want to qualify on merit as India has never played in that tournament before.”
There’s little doubt that the 27-year-old has set her eyes for the stars. She has defied excruciating odds in the past, and with perseverance, even mountains can move. More power to her to fulfil her dreams.