Former AIFF Women’s Player of the Year Kamala Devi said on Tuesday that the chance of earning a maiden World Cup qualification would be a “huge” motivating factor for the Indian team when they take part in the the upcoming AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
The continental tournament will take place at three venues in Maharashtra from January 20 to February 6.
She felt that a good run for India in the competition could go a long way in popularizing women’s football in the country.
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“The Asian Cup will be a special moment for all of us. All eyes will be on us. So if we play well, it can inspire more girls to come forward and play the sport,” Kamala told the Indian Football Federation (AIFF).
“Qualifying for the World Cup is a big motivation for us.” While the Indian team plans to take it step by step, the larger goal of getting closer to qualifying for the 2023 FIFA World Cup remains in sight.
A quarter-final appearance could bring India closer to that.
At 29, midfielder Kamala is one of the most experienced players in the Indian squad and has had his ups and downs.
“I used to play a number of sports when I was a kid, like cricket, hockey, football and sepak takraw. But eventually I got into football, probably because it was a much cheaper sport to maintain,” Kamala said.
“My father didn’t want me to play football when I was young. But my aunt came forward and helped me. But my father realized that I could do something with football, once I got there. started to do well in a few local tournaments.” Unfortunately, Kamala’s father didn’t live long enough to see his daughter make the national team.
“I understand why he insisted more on my studies than on football. He wanted me to be independent. But if he was still alive, he would have been proud of me. Football allowed me to live,” said she declared.
While Kamala’s aunt stayed by her side, everyone in her village except her childhood football friends and coach didn’t like the fact that a girl was playing the sport.
However, receiving the AIFF Women’s Player of the Year award in 2017 changed things for the better.
“At first, very few people supported me to play football. My coach Biren was one of those who convinced my father to let me play football,” Kamala recalls.
“But since I received the player of the year award, things have changed. Now those who were against me, ask their children for football advice, every time I come home. And I’m more than happy to oblige. There’s some victory in that,” she said.