With the Indian Women’s Football Team rising up the ranks and achieving a rank of 50 among the 175 nations enlisted by FIFA ,in its latest rankings, Thehardtackle takes a look on the careers of two of the most gifted players of the Women’s Team Oinam Bembem Devi and Lako Phuti Bhutia. The duo played for Maldives Club New Radiant SC helping them win the tournament.

Performance With New Radiant SC

Bembem Devi was adjudged the Player of The Tournament

Bembem Devi was adjudged the Player of The Tournament

On 9th June 2014 Maldivian Football club New Radiant SC , announced the signing of Oinam Bembem Devi and another Indian youngster Lako Phuti .Bembem Devi made her debut as a late 1st half substitute , in their match against Maldives police service on 11th June and her speed and skill were a constant threat to the opposition as Bembem provided two assists in her teams 4-0 win. In the match against defending champions Sun hotels and resorts, Bembem scored in both halves to help New Radiant SC to a comfortable 4-0 win  securing them a spot in the semi finals against Sun Hotels and Resorts.In the Semi Finals they defeated Sun hotels and resorts 5-1 and entered the final. The Final match was held on 21st June 2014 between New Radiant SC and Maldives National Defence Force . Bembem Devi scored in 9th and 26th minute of the match, to help New Radiant SC achieve a historic 5-1  win over MNDF to win the league.

Bembem Devi ended up as the top scorer of the tournament with 6 goals in just 3 matches. She also provided 4 assists and she was awarded the Player of The Tournament for  her excellent performances. In her short stint with the club Bembem Devi emerged as one of the key players while for the 18 year old Lako Phuti it was a learning experience which will help in times to come.

Bembem Devi

A name synonymous to the Indian’s women’ s football team is Oinam Bembem Devi. Known for her excellent ball control, footwork and dribbling , the midfielder was born in Imphal in  Manipur on 1st March 1980. Oinam Bembem Devi started her journey as a footballer back in 1991 when she was selected to represent the Manipur u-13 team in the sub-junior football tournament. Her performances in the tournament did not go unnoticed , as she joined Yawa Singjamei Leishangthem Lekai club and 2 years later she moved on to join Sun club mongshangei in 1993 . The youngsters’ performance prompted the 15 year old’s selection in the national team squad,for the AFC cup.

Bembem Devi

Bembem Devi

The turning point in her career came at the 1996 Asian Games , where the Indian national team were drawn in a group alongside Japan and neighbors Nepal . They lost to Japan1-0 and won against Nepal 1-0 to progress from the group with Japan.In round 2 they would be drawn in a tough group alongside the national teams of Uzbekistan , Turkmenistan and North Korea. They lost all their matches but by then Oinam Bemben Devi had announced her arrival at the national stage . Before the 1997 AFC Cup in China , the Indian eve’s team were sent to Germany for a month long camp , where the national team players were trained by German coaches and played against German oppositions .The camp proved vital as the Indian team won 3-0 against Hong-Kong , Japan the top ranked team in women’ s football, defeated India 1-0 and in their final group game encounter India thrashed guam 10-0.

She was given the armband of the Indian contingent in the AFC qualifying competition , held in Thailand in 2003. She was the captain of the Indian team that emerged winners at the 11th South Asian Games held in Bangladesh, in 2010 and the 2nd SAFF Women’s Football Championship held in Sri-Lanka in the year 2012.

At the national level , Bembem Devi is a regular member of the Manipur state football team for woman since the year 1993. She has been appointed the captain of her state team since the 32nd National Games held in Hyderabad , where she led her state to victory . She was the first ever recipient of the Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2001,which was awarded by the All India Football Federation(AIFF) , the All Manipur Football Association awarded her the Best Women Footballer Of The Year Of Manipur in the same year. In 2013 , after a gap of 12 years the 2nd Women’s footballer of the year of India was awarded , which was again awarded to

Lako Phuti Bhutia

Lako Phuti Bhutia

Lako Phuti Bhutia

Born in Sikkim On 20th October 1994 , to Mikchen Bhutia and late Pem Lhamu bhutia while Bemben Devi was just starting to make her name in the Women’s Football Team , which astrologer could have predicted they would be sharing the dressing room for not only the national team, but also their club 20 years down the line. Lako Phuti Bhutia who hails from Sribadam , a remote place in West Sikkim is a product of the Mangalbari Women’s Football Academy. The defender horned her skills under coach Palden Bhutia.

In the year 2012 she was called up to the Under-19 National Team for the Under-19 AFC Qualifiers in Malayasia. She became the 4th Girl from the state to represent the National Team after Pushpa Chetri,Anuradha Chetri and Nima Lhamu Bhutia . She attended a one-month coaching camp at Gandhinagar , Gujarat with the u-19 squad before leaving for Malaysia.

She alongwith her sister Nima Lhamu Bhutia was selected for the Senior Women’s National Football Coaching Camp , which was held from 1st April 2013.This Camp was held for the selection of the Senior National Team for the Asian Cup Qualifying Round . Her sister could not attend the camp due to personal reasons. Lako has represented the National Team 8 times and has 1 goal to her credit.

State of Women Football In India

The only competition in Women’s Football in India is India Women’s Football Championship’s, which is contested by 20 teams across the country. It is a league cum knock-out tournament.

Players from several states have dominated the national women team.  For example the 80’s and 90’s were dominated by Bengal , where the National team was filled with players from Bengal . Then came the dominance of Manipur , with a proper structure of u-13 and u-14 teams and a proper league , with 4 teams participating in the senior division ,the Manipuri players were properly trained and formed the core of the national team. Recently there has been  an emergence of players from Orissa. Women’s football in Orissa has improved a lot, nowadays players are staying in hostels and playing all year round which helps in their development and to make them a better player. This has been evident by the recent success they have enjoyed in the women’s football championships .

Even without a proper Nationalised League, like the I-league for their male counterparts and with problems like players not being employed in their own state and having to migrate to other states for their employment (which maximum families are against ), the Indian women team has done a commendable job. The Indian National Women’s Team had its ultimate low in June 2009 ,when FIFA delisted the Women’s Team from its rankings for failing to play a friendly in 18 months . The AIFF has put in considerable amount of hard-work and effort to put the women’s team back on track  achieving an rank of 50 among 175 nations in the latest FIFA rankings released on 21st of June 2014.

One can only dream of what this team is capable of ,if they are provided proper facilities and a proper platform like a Structured league system is introduced ,which will benefit the team as not only high profile coaches will  be training them ,but they will be able to play regularly which has been a major issue in Indian Women’s Football. Hopefully that day is not far away when these problems are dealt with.

Written By THT Guest Author Boudhayan Sarbajna