That a heady mix of youth and experience will rub shoulders when Manipur and Odisha renew acquaintance in the Final of the 20th Women’s National Championship is the best thing that could come out, according to iconic footballer Oinam Bembem Devi.
The final at the Golaghat Stadium on Monday (May 12) will kick-off at 2pm.
The Nationals, which is the main platform for the fairer sex to catch the eye of the Selectors for a place in the Indian National Team, could not have come to a better conclusion.
“We have nine National Team Players in the first team, and Odisha is full of U-19 Footballers. What better than to see the next generation of Footballers playing with their Senior counterparts in a Cup Final,” Bembem, who’s Captaining Manipur, tells www.the-aiff.com.
“Odisha have done exceptionally well to reach this far. I believe that this Final will further pep up the future India Senior Team players to give their all against their incumbents. This is healthy competition,” added the AIFF Women’s Player of the Year who has been part of all Manipur’s incredible adventures in the Nationals.
The North Eastern outfit have won a mammoth 16 titles out of the 19 Championships so far.
“I have always felt that the Nationals is the best platform to unearth new talent. I am thankful to AIFF for organising it and I can see that it is already paying rich dividends,” the 34-year old former India Captain further added.
Echoing the decorated female footballer, Goalkeeping Coach of the Senior National Team Chitra Gangadharan who is also part of the AIFF deputed Scouting Team, adds: “Odisha’s progress in the Final and Manipur’s domination shows that Women’s Football in going in the right direction.”
“Manipur is loaded with Senior Team players including someone like Bembem who is an inspiration to one and all. The Odisha side has done exceedingly well to reach the Final and in great fashion. Almost their entire squad represented Railways this time. They have done a wonderful job in training the underage players, many of whom also play for India U-19 National Team.
“Now when these Players take the field against their Seniors, it will give them the best opportunity to prove their mettle and seal a berth in the National Team. It will be a great match to watch with so many mini-battles. I expect Odisha to come out all guns blazing.”
Meanwhile, Odisha Coach Shrandhanjali Samantaray informed that 17-18 Players from the 20-member Squad are playing the Nationals for the first time.
“These girls are raring to go. They have made it this far and now they want to prove it against seasoned campaigners. It will be a lifetime experience for them,” he informs.
Senior National Team Head Coach Anadi Barua added that he is rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of seeing his National Team Players pitting their wits against their junior counterparts.
“It will be so intense,” he quipped.
“Everyone wants to play for India, and to earn that place you need to show your dedication. These Odisha girls have that hunger in them. They have the best chance to show it against the Senior Team regulars. It will be a great Final from a National Team Coach’s point of view.”
“It will be a match between two generations,” he added.
Carrying a clean slate into the summit clash, both Odisha and Manipur will be aiming to upset each other’s applecart. While Manipur have steamrolled their opponents en route the pinnacle, the young Odisha brigade have been a revelation, making light work of their rivals.
The kick-off at the Golaghat Stadium on Monday (May 12) is at 14.00 IST.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)