Chronicling Ashalata Devi – Afternoon stealth leading the Indian national team

She credits Chaoba Devi for her development as a professional footballer …

Football is not just a sport in North East India. It’s an obsession.

However, at school, Ashalata Devi had never seen a women’s football game held on the annual sports day. The boy’s team was playing and their role was limited to being mere spectators. It seemed strange to him, but who would ring the cat?

After thinking for a long time and mustering all her courage, she approached the PE teacher and feverishly asked if a girls’ match could be arranged.

“He accepted. He then asked us to form two teams of 11 so that a match could be organized. It was like my first match, ”recalls the Indian international. Goal.

It was one of those school games where there are few tactics and all the energy. 22 girls were chasing the ball and neither team could score a goal. He went to the tiebreaker and Ashalata converted one of the kicks to score the first goal of his life.

The match stoked the simmering fire in the girls and soon it was a rage. About 10 to 15 girls began to practice regularly with the boys. After school, it seemed like nothing in the world could stop Ashalata and her friends from drinking the new elixir they had found in soccer. But her family hated the idea of ​​girls playing football.

“After two or three months, everything stopped. After training my mother beat me (laughs). So I had to leave. ”

However, his morale remained good. And soon, she would sneak out of her house in the afternoon and join the workouts. But once the results arrived, it was all clear.

“I didn’t do well and they found out where I was going. She always said: ‘ tujhme agar sharam naam ke koi cheez hai toh football chod deti“. (if you were ashamed of yourself you would have quit football. ‘) (laughs) But this time it was really difficult. ”

Despite the challenges, she joined KRYPSHA FC (Kangchup Road Young Physical and Sports Association) in 2008. This could well augur as the turning point in her career.

“Chaoba madame was the coach. It was my first training under the guidance of a professional trainer. I started out as a central midfielder. But the club needed a defender. Chaoba madame asked me to play as a defender. I refuted it a lot. I didn’t like playing in the back. I wanted to move forward with the ball. But it helped me a lot to understand the role of an advocate. It helped me improve my positioning and my reading of the game. Since then, I have been a defender, ”revealed the 27-year-old.

She started playing for Manipur and during the national championships she was spotted by the selectors of the Indian U17 team. It was at this point that her family gradually began to accept her as a footballer.

But to be selected for the Indian senior team, she had to improve in leaps and bounds. She was not one of the toughest and her stamina level was at its lowest.

“Madam Chaoba used to take endurance tests and even though I had finished the results were poor. On one occasion, I even started throwing up afterwards. I had a lot of rumblings. I felt very bad after this reprimand. So I started to climb. the mounds behind my house to increase my stamina. Even during the monsoons, when all the players were on vacation, the defenders practiced sliding and heading. So she was a wonderful mentor to me.

Three years she worked on herself and finally in 2011 she made her national team debut. Since then, she hasn’t looked back. She won the AIFF Player of the Year award for her performance in 2018-19 and was even nominated by the AFC as one of Asia’s top three players with China’s Li Ying, who was part of the The Women’s World Cup team in France and Japanese midfielder Saki Kumagai, who won the Women’s Champions League for Lyon.

It was under his leadership that India reached the second round of Olympic qualifying for the first time in history before being eliminated by Myanmar on goal difference. India has also seen a steady increase in the FIFA rankings. They are ranked 53rd in the world and a strong performance in the Asian Cup qualifiers later this year could propel them into the top 50.

“We have played a lot of friendlies over the past two or three years. It matters a lot. We won some good matches which helped us in the standings. We have changed our approach to football. We focus on fitness and diet. things weren’t done a few years ago. Maymol (Rocky) Madame is a good coach. She is very helpful and is a smart coach. It also helped us, ”explained the skipper.

Ashalata gathered their defense and ensured the team had the best defensive record in the group in the Olympic qualifiers. In the end, the team couldn’t cross the line. However, she wants to be forgiven when India hosts the AFC Asian Cup in 2022. A knockout berth would be more than enough for the previous disappointment.