Mumbai, robust, joyful, eventful, buzzing and vigorous, played emcee in yet another affair with the beautiful game.
It all started in an empty Cooperage Ground situated in Colaba,where the Indian Women held a 45 day training camp. After 45 days of this hard routine,22 players would be selected for an exposure trip to China and subsequently axed to 18, that would participate in the Asian Games, being held Incheon,South Korea. However in a country neither offering Women’s football League nor holding Women’s Training Camps regularly, 45 days were just too short a span for a team even of this caliber.
“How is a 45-day camp sufficient training to play at something like the Asian Games?” says Indian Goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan in an interview with Yahoo.
Selecting player mostly from the National Championship in Assam, tactics and formations were still hard to inject. Players were often familiar with the classic 4-4-2, the team managment decided on revolutionizing this by introducing a 4-3-3 wherein the women would go on to win four matches, draw one and loose one, in friendlies. 45 days were still less for players to learn and recognize a new system of play. The Indian contingent still went on to experiment with the 4-3-3 and often reverted to 4-2-3-1 in time of need. The tactical flexibility and the right personnel to operate in those positions, is perhaps one of the key highlights of this team.
“The 4-3-3 is going to be our main formation. But if the opponent is better then we can change it to 4-2-3-1. I am satisfied with how the girls have responded to it. It is new for them but they have adapted well in 45 days,” says coach Tarun Roy
The training period also served as ground to accommodate talent infused in player such as Bala Devi and Bembem Devi. Player Chemistry, passing movements, technicality and co-ordination started budding in this span of time.
The 22 member team which was axed to 18, departed on an exposure trip to China. Playing against the likes of China’s top team, the Indian Contingent began their quest for glory. Even the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger take more than just 45 days to make players capable of playing in a new system. Defeat, was expected with player showing no signs of jelling up, and a 3-0 thrashing against Century Park FC was on its way. The second match also ended in disappointment with the Indian Contingent failing to snatch victory from the jaws of their Chinese compatriots. However the third and final match, showed signs of quality, class, genius and tactical flexibility.
The Indian Women’s Team would go on to annihilated Century Park FC 4-2. In an inspired hatrick by striker Bala Devi, the Indian went on a rampage, terrorizing Chinese defense everytime. Bala – who delivered tons of goals in the Women’s Nationals ,pulled away from the hosts as time approached 6th minute, running 20 yards to get on the end of a delightful move from the left flank. The tall Manipuri striker then hoodwinked her marker to slam home with the goalkeeper in position to thwart the powerful effort.
The second goal came four minutes later this time Bala slaloming past three defenders to finally round off goalkeeper and guide the ball into the back of the net. With Bala in sublime form, the rest of the team looked in fine fettle too. Four minutes past the half hour mark, Prameshwori slid in Bala and she on the day could do nothing wrong. It was 3-0 and the opponents were already looking for cover. Post the breather, it was the same story as Premi Devi got on the scoresheet with a clinical strike from 25 yards. The hosts pulled two back in the 60th and 72nd minutes but the Indian rearguard showed solidarity in the dying minutes to not let the cushion plummet further.
The final match, showed signs of everything that the women are capable of. Everything clicked, finally and resulted in an eye candy for the Indian Supporters. The exposure trip not only gave the Contingent much needed experience but also led their chemistry into a step above.
With the Asian Games set to kick off on the 14th of September for the Indian Women, Bembem Devi is perhaps the key link as she would be instrumental and pivotal in team’s endeavors. Bembem at 36, is one of the longest serving members of this Indian Squad. She is also perhaps the most experienced, well versed and tactically aware player in this contingent. Bembem who operates as a midfielder, is capable of picking up defense splitting passes and can also provide a safeguard for the Indian Defenders. Awarded the Player of the Tournament in the Maldives League, perhaps Bembem is one of the pillars of inspiration and motivation the young girls look up to. Another player capable of harassing the defense is Bala Devi, her recent strikes have already insured her way into the 18, but she still has to work on her movement to insure better quality finishes.
Fixtures and Squad
Clubbed in Group A alongwith Maldives, South Korea and Thailand, the Women’s are focusing on a quarter final finish. But Opponents such as South Korea could very well spoil the party. Ranked below their Korean opponents, the Indians would have to be in their best of forms to defeat the Koreans on 17th of September.After kick-starting their campaign against Maldives on the 14th of September, the Indian Women will wrap up their adventure against Thailand on the 21st. In an average looking group, it would be safe to bet on the Indian Contingent as they would most likely make it through the preliminary round.
Politics and football should seldom mix and when they do dire consequences, such as the Indian Football Teams left stranded in Shanghai, happens. After much ruckus, chaos and hullagulla, the Ministries finally agreed to send the teams to Incheon. The final 18 player squad was announced subsequently, it consisted of
GOALKEEPERS: Okram Roshni Devi, Aditi Chauhan, Pushpa Tirkey
DEFENDERS: Ashem Romi Devi, Ashalata Devi, Tuli Goon, Radharani Devi, Suprava Samal, Upamati Devi
MIDFIELDERS: Premi Devi, Amoolya Kamal, Mandakini Devi, Oinam Bembem Devi, Kamala Devi.
FORWARDS: Sasmita Malik, Prameshwori Devi, Dangmei Grace, Bala Devi
The Squad at first, looks good and decent on paper, however football is a game rarely decided on sheets. The 4-3-3 is looking decent enough and perhaps could lead the ‘Women in Blue’ to Glory.