During this year’s Subroto Cup Final, a young girl came over from the stands to give out the awards. Journalists present at the stadium their had little clue who this girl was and why she was made the Chief Guest at the ceremony. Aditi Chauhan – the custodian for Indian Women’s football team had just returned after an emphatic SAFF Cup victory from Sri Lanka. The 20 year old, who has won numerous laurels at University and State level and certainly has a bright future with the Indian team, got candid in an interview with TheHardTackle’s correspondent Kunwar Deep Singh.
Kunwar: Hi Aditi ! First of all I would congratulate you for a resounding victory in the SAFF Cup final. We are all proud of the team.
Aditi: Hi. Thank you. It means a lot.
Kunwar: So Aditi, what lies ahead for the women’s team after the SAFF Cup victory?
Aditi: This was the SAFF championship that the women’s team won 2nd time in a row. Next up are the SAFF games,so the team will be preparing for that .
Kunwar: What propelled you to take up football as a profession?
Aditi: I have always loved playing sports especially karate and basketball but when I started playing football I developed a different kind of passion for the game, so I dedicated myself to it and I kept getting favourable results personally, hence the interest kept increasing and I decided to take it up as a profession.
Alongwith the love for the beautiful game, it was the response that i got from my coaches that propelled my interest in the game and it was then that i really put my foot on the pedal and gave it everything that i had.
Kunwar: How has the response of media and public in general changed towards women’s football after the SAFF Cup triumph?
Aditi: There has been lack of media support in women’s football. Even during the SAFF matches there were no updates given to the public through any medium, news or through social networking sites while our neighboring country Nepal, against whom we played the finals had a whole website dedicated to only the SAFF championship and regular updates of every match being played there was posted. Although I feel there has been a little improvement since past but I think a lot can still be done if the media pays a little more attention towards the women’s team as much as they do to the men’s team. Even if the women’s football is given half the attention the mens football gets, I am sure it will go a long way in encouraging young girls to take the sport and will yield far more favorable results.
Also, I would like to specially thank your website for coming up with a write-up ont the recently concluded SAFF cup.
Kunwar: What are the steps that can be taken to popularize women’s football in the country?
Aditi: There are a lot of loopholes in women’s football which ,if overcome, can take the team to great heights.some of them are :
a. No exposure trips to foreign countries and against quality opponents are provided to the women’s team like they are provided to the men’s team. Men’s team is given month long stays abroad just for training under foreign coaches.
b. No friendly international matches with better ranking teams to improve the level of football in our country.
c. No local leagues are held at the national level like i-league that is organized every year for men.
d. No training camps under International coaches to improve skills and technique.
e. No job opportunities for women who have represented country except in railways. This is a major reason why girls are reluctant to take up this sport as they are doubtful regarding their employment in future.
Kunwar: Can upcoming footballers make a living from Indian football? Are they right to take up football as there profession?
Aditi: There is very limited scope for women footballers as far as job opportunities are concerned. As far as my knowledge goes, jobs are available in Railways and that too, only in just one state (Bihar). None of the other states have job opportunities for women footballers. State police employs women footballers in Manipur and Orissa only. Players will certainly get motivated if there are more job opportunities in different government offices.
Kunwar: Is there any player (senior or younger) who you think can take India to the next level?
Aditi: There is a lot of potential in the youngsters especially from Manipur who, if guided and coached properly, can improve the level of soccer in India. Even the senior team, if coached according to the new techniques by international coaches, can take India’s women football to the next level.
Kunwar: In India football is not popular sport, do you think our women’s team can attract the fans and popularize the game? If yes,why?
Aditi: Yes I do agree that in India football is not as popular as cricket but I have seen the fan base of football growing in India in recent past. Football is a global sport and I’m sure it’ll gain more popularity if there is more media coverage and if the general public is made aware of it through all channels possible. The Nehru cup that was held in new Delhi recently saw a good crowd. I believe that the general public need results at international level and only then will they be interested in the sport like badminton, boxing, wrestling. It was only when athletes showed results in these sports at international level then these sports gained popularity in India, so if the women’s soccer team keeps achieving good results at international level and the media helps in spreading the information about the sport to the general public I’m sure the game will gain more popularity.
Kunwar: What is the most serious problem faced by women’s football in India?
Aditi: I would say the most serious problem is that we play very limited international matches. This is also a major reason why the ranking of the team does not improve. We do not play any friendly matches with better ranking teams. There is also lack of facilities for women’s team as compared to the mens team. The women’s team is ranked 52nd internationally where as the, mens team is ranked 168th so I think a little more attention if payed by the AIFF on women’s soccer, could do wonders for the country and also help the game gain popularity in our country.
Kunwar: How does club football scenario look for women?
Aditi: If clubs are made at national level and leagues held just like IPL in cricket, I-league in football for men, the level of football in the country is sure to rise. This will also attract more youngsters to the game and the game will gain popularity within the nation.
But as far as my knowledge, nothing of this sort is being planned for the women yet, which is sad. Though club matches are held within states like Manipur and Delhi but they fail to get media attention and the public does not really come to know.
Kunwar: What are the personal targets you have set before yourself? Are you aiming to play in leagues outside India?
Aditi: I plan to play for the country as long as I can and devote my services to the nation through the sport, I have not yet planned to play in any league outside India but if I get an opportunity like that, I would love to showcase my skills, and show the world that India does not lack in any sport , and I would also come to know where I stand at an international level.
Kunwar: Great ! Aditi, now here’s a quick rapid fire round.
Aditi: Yes sure.
Kunwar: The best player you have played with?
Aditi: Bembem Oinam. Midfielder (Captain of SAFF Cup winning team) from Manipur.
Kunwar: Your idol?
Kunwar: Your favorite contemporary player?
Kunwar: Your favorite club?
Kunwar: Best ever Indian to have played football in India?
Aditi: Bembem again, because she has been representing our nation for the past 17 years, and is still someone we all look upto at the age of 30+ .
Kunwar: Favorite Indian club?
Aditi: Pune FC
Kunwar: Best moment in football?
Aditi: Winning the SAFF Championship.
Kunwar: Best save?
Aditi: <after a thought> Well, it was in Rohtak, while representing the Delhi University. I was also awarded the best goalkeeper in that tournament.
Kunwar: Awesome. Thanks Aditi for obliging and taking some time out from your schedule. I hope Indian team scales new heights and all the players get their due recognition.
Aditi: My Pleasure. Thanks !