Mothers have played some of the most important roles in the development of the Blue Tigresses, something that the Indian Women’s Team stars are never shy of pointing out.
In a panel discussion ahead of the International Women’s Day, Blue Tigresses Ashalata Devi, Dalima Chhibber, Aditi Chauhan, and Bala Devi spoke at length about the importance of women playing sports. While a lot of their discussion was centred around the struggles and inspirations of female athletes in our country, they did agree on one common inspiration – their mothers.
“I believe for me it (inspiration) starts at home. My mother has been my rock, she has been the biggest support, she has been my biggest cheerleader and I guess there have been times where she has driven me to do better than I was usually doing. She inspires me to be my best every day, and after that, it has been my sister,” said the Indian Women’s Team fullback Dalima Chhibber.
“I have an elder sister who was into sports as well, but I guess looking at her as well playing on the field, just work hard it brought me into sports because I would see her, I would follow her because she was my elder sister. As a younger sister, I wanted to just follow her whatever she was doing.”
As a young female athlete, Blue Tigresses custodian Aditi Chauhan has had to face obstacles of perception from the society, but support from her mother is something that has carried her a long way.
“A lot of things come from a society, but through my journey I’ve seen my mom taking on a lot of these things herself, and she didn’t let them come through to us,” said Chauhan. “That’s a very important thing for a girl who wants to make her way and go do things, try to do something different.”
For Chauhan, the support doesn’t just stop at her mother. Her own achievements as a footballer stretch to the efforts put in by three generations.
“My grandmother has also contributed majorly, especially in the early days because my parents were working. She came down to Delhi from another city and used to take me to camps and trials everywhere,” she continued. “She is also an active member of an NGO which works for women empowerment. They are the ones who made me the person I am today. All my beliefs and things that I stand for have come down from them.”
Blue Tigresses captain Ashalata Devi has had a slightly different experience, bordering on the lines of hard love from her mother, who at first, did not see the merit of carrying on with football.
“At first, my mother did not really support it. It’s mainly because she didn’t see anyone around us achieve much in football. She’d ask me to focus on studies instead,” said Ashalata.
“I often used to sneak out secretly to play. If I got an injury, before reaching home, I’d try to walk straight instead of seeing my mother see me limp. If she ever saw it, she wouldn’t let me go out and play the next day,” she laughed. “It was her way of being concerned and taking care of me. She was worried about me getting a serious injury while playing against boys. It was the same with my grandmother.”
However, once the defender began to make headways in the sport, her family saw the importance of football in her life, and then came the full support.
“Eventually, they all accepted the fact that I’d keep playing football once I got selected for the India U-17 National Team,” recalled Ashalata. “After that, I got nothing other than their full support, and that was really important.”