Hot on the heels of the Indian women’s national team achieving their best-ever FIFA World Ranking, icon Oinam Bembem Devi was adjudged the AIFF Women’s Player of the Year for 2013.
The Award has been reinstated by AIFF after Bembem had won it in 2001. In an exclusive interview with AIFF Media, an elated Bembem spoke her feelings at being awarded the prestigious Award, India’s best-ever FIFA Ranking, the paradigm shift in Women’s Football and much more.
What is your reaction after winning the award?
My happiness knows no bounds today. It is after 12 years that I have won this award again. A lot has changed since then but not the excitement. I was over the moon when I bagged the award in 2001, I am elated today also. The emotions remain the same. There are certain things time cannot change.
Did you see this coming your way?
I have told in an interview during the Asian Women’s Championship Qualifiers before also that AIFF is doing a lot for women’s football. It is heartening to see that the award being reinstated. This will drive many women footballers to take that one step forward.
Is this the best moment of your marathon career?
I will be retiring in the next couple of years. I was 21 when I got this award for the first time, I am 33 today. AIFF gave me the boost when I was starting, and at the twilight of my career, they have recognised my contribution, I can’t ask for anything more. Thank you AIFF!
The national team is ranked 49th in the latest FIFA World Rankings, which is the best-ever. What are your thoughts?
We have to justify our rankings and not become complacent. I felt in the last couple of years women’s football has been on the rise and these are its dividends. But at the same time we have to stay focused and keep working hard.
You’ve seen many generations in your eighteen years with the national team. How do you rate the current crop?
This team has the potential to excel. I would also like to add that the Grassroots Programmes of AIFF are excellent and in the long run this will help women’s football as it will for men’s. I congratulate Mizoram FA for having Best Grassroots Development Programme.
Recently FIFA TV’s Video of the Week was on women’s football in India. Do you think that the women’s football in India has undergone a paradigm shift over the years, both on and off the pitch?
Certainly! I was not part of the team that played in Kolhapur against the Dutch combined outfit but the amount of support we got there was epic. The inhibition is slowly fading into oblivion and making way for a fresh wave of hope for women’s football in the country.
Finally, where do you see yourself after you are done with football?
I want to become a coach. I want to guide more and more women footballers in the right direction both on and off the pitch. If people see me as an inspiration, it’s my job to justify that faith.
(Interview & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)