The Indian Women’s Football team is currently hard at work as they train in Uzbekistan for their upcoming friendlies against the host nation and Belarus on April 5 and 8 respectively.
With an eye on the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 which will be held in India, Head Coach Maymol Rocky has been busy enacting her plan of integrating promising young talent with experienced heads in the squad. And, two players who embody this plan perfectly – midfielder Sangita Basfore, who captained the said in the three friendlies in Turkey, and youngster Martina Thokchom, who has been brought into the senior side from the U-17 Women’s Team.
Martina credits the seniors for helping her feel like a ‘part of the team’, “When I first joined, I was quite nervous, but they (seniors) welcomed me nicely and made me feel comfortable. Helped with everything both on the field and off it which helped me feel like a part of the team.
“I miss my U-17 teammates a lot but here everyone is elder to me so I get to learn from their experience,” says the youngster from Manipur.
With the exuberance of youth, Martina says she is very much looking forward to a “challenging” encounter against a higher-ranked opponent, “Uzbekistan is a higher-ranked country (41 in the most recent FIFA rankings) and we’re going to play in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup next year so this friendly is very important. This match is going to be very challenging for us. We can use this as good preparation.”
Meanwhile Sangita, now an experienced player within the squad is grateful for these opportunities in the midst of a pandemic, “Initially we had issues because in lockdown we practised individually and when we came together, it was tough to understand each other, but slowly we bonded together as a team and developed a sense of unity. I need to thank the authorities for giving us these opportunities to train even in these times.”
“Then we travelled to Turkey for an exposure tour where we had the chance to play against three higher-ranked teams. This helped strengthen our unity even more. That benefited our team a lot and it should show in this match against Uzbekistan,” Sangita further stated.
The midfielder was named captain for the three friendlies in Turkey against quality opposition like Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine and it is a role she hopes to fulfil even without the armband in the future, “I was a junior when I entered the National Team. I used to watch and follow everything that the senior players did and didn’t do, learning from them about what I needed to do both on the field and off the field. Then slowly I evolved into a senior player and even got the captaincy in Turkey.
“That experience was really good, I never expected it but Maymol Ma’am gave it (the captaincy) to me and trusted me with the opportunity so I would also like to thank her for it. She gave me the responsibility to lead the team and in Turkey, I fulfilled that role. I’ll also carry it forward in the future. It’s not always important to have the captain’s armband. I’ll try to motivate the young players and guide them. Now, Indu di (Indumathi Kathiresan) is the captain so with whatever experience I’ve gained, I look forward to working with her,” she said.
The midfield general from West Bengal was also all praise for the crop of youngsters entering the senior team fold, “I’m feeling good because young players are coming into the team. It’s easy for us to develop an understanding with them. And they are technically well-equipped on the field because they’ve played so many exposure matches. The team is looking more dynamic and energetic with them.”