India women’s football team goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan feels that with the growth in profile of the game in the country, more players will follow the footsteps of trailblazer Bala Devi, who ventured out of the country in search of a professional career.
Women’s football is expected to get a boost with India hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup next year and the AFC Asian Cup in 2022. Aditi believes more girls will emulate national team striker Devi, who last year became the first Indian woman to play in a top-flight professional league in Europe. She now plays in Scottish Premier League with Glasgow-based Rangers.
“There is so much potential in India. I want more girls to get such exposures, and learn from playing against better opponents. With more avenues for younger girls coming up, I am sure there will be others who will follow in Bala’s footsteps. Bala is a gem of a player and her move to Rangers is amazing,” Chauhan was quoted as saying in an AIFF release.
Chauhan, 27, herself had played in England for London-based West Ham Ladies between 2015 and 2018, though not in the top-tier league, when she was pursuing her studies in the UK. “The standard of play, the culture is so different. It’s a total professional set-up in Europe. The experience which she will gain will benefit not just her (Devi), but Indian football in general,” she said.
“Whenever she comes back to play for the National Team, we’d eagerly wait to hear about her experiences. I am sure she’ll love to share all of that – especially with the U-17 girls. Her knowledge will matter a lot shaping the career of younger girls.”
Chauhan, who has earned 15 caps for the country since making debut in 2012, also said women’s football has now become more pan-Indian and gone are the day when the Manipuri players completely dominated the national team.
“When I first started playing for the national team, it was majorly dominated by players from Manipur. But it has become more of a diverse team now. The team now has a pan Indian representation,” she said.
“The competition for places in the team has grown – everyone is pushing each other. No one is comfortable as there are new kids coming from all over and securing slots in the squad. That’s how the team has grown, and the results have come out so well.”