My Football journey in India
Football is slowly but steadily spreading its wings to become the second sport in India after cricket. With the FIFA U-17 World Cup on the horizon, and the Indian Super League selling like hotcakes in it’s inaugural year, the beautiful game has indeed woken up and is walking.
Many of you reading this blog might not even be aware that India also has a National Women’s Football team but yes, India does have a national team which is ranked much higher than its male counterpart. And here I take the opportunity to let you all know that I have been the goalkeeper of the National Team for the past six years.
How it all began…
I have always been an active child enjoying various sports. My father was with the army so we literally lived out of our suitcases during my early years. when I was 9, we moved to Delhi and that was the time when it all began.
It gave me the opportunity to get involved in various sports. As soon as got into school the first things I did was to join the Karate classes and continued it for 4 years till I got the Black belt.
During the games period scheduled in our timetable, I loved playing basketball and the sports teacher saw that I had some potential, so he wanted me to join morning training sessions to be part of the school team.
But I couldn’t attend the training as I lived far away from school and did not have any means to commute early to school, so my coach started training me separately during the games period and also the lunch break.
I know you might be thinking that this blog was supposed to be about my tryst with football but it was only because of my involvement in basketball that I started playing football.
Eventually I made it to the school basketball team and was also selected to represent Delhi state team. I also represented my school in various zonal and inter zonal athletic meets for Discus throw, javelin throw and shot put.
Since I was involved in many sports in school, I had developed good relations with my sports teachers and coaches. One day during my basketball training my coach casually asked me if I was interested to play football and told me that if I got selected I could represent my state.
He believed in me so much that he asked me to appear for trials as a goalkeeper as I had good grip on the ball from playing basketball.
I attended the trials, did well, and was just 15 years old when I got selected as a substitute keeper for the U-19 Delhi team.
Since that day, I fell in love with the game to such an extent that I never looked back, never played any other sport. Not even basketball. I was called up for the trials for the Under-19 National Team at 17 and for the first time stayed away from home for over 3 months to prepare for the AFC Qualifiers 2008, Malaysia. I always knew I had it in me to be the 1st choice custodian if I worked hard and trusted myself.
I trained hard in every session and got a chance to represent my country as the 1st choice keeper. It was indeed a very proud moment for me and my parents. I cannot thank my parents and my grandparents enough for letting me pursue sports. Back then, it was not very common for girls to take up team sports like football but my grandma being an athlete herself knew exactly how I felt about the opportunity and convinced my parents also to let me continue playing football.
But at that time there were not a lot of career opportunities available to female footballers and my parents knew it better, they made it very clear to me that I would only be allowed to continue playing football if I maintained my academic grades along with football.
Studies used to feel like a burden, but today when I am matured enough to know the importance of studies, I thank my parents for putting that pressure. I scored 93% in my 12th grade which helped me get into a good college in Delhi University and completed my graduation with a merit in commerce in 2013. In the meantime, I continued playing football throughout my graduation. I represented my country in various international competitions, even represented my college and Delhi University as the captain. The last tournament I played in for my country was the Asian Games, South Korea 2014 which was an experience of a lifetime.
Now, I am here doing my Masters in Sports Management in England and playing for the University. I hope to continue playing Football as long as I can because I love the sport no bounds.
Goalkeeper of India women’s national football team for the past six years.