Ashalata and Co. carry responsibility aplenty
Indian captain feels doing well at Asian Cup '22 will be a game changer for women’s football
PUNE: For any nation, fans undoubtedly make a difference. Their presence drives teams and the privilege to play hosts helps with that ‘little’ extra.
The constant egging works as an advantageous two-way exchange, the first ‘we are there with you,’ which in return transpires into a harder push on-field. Both wonderfully synchronize to the purpose of achievement.
Unlike the last two editions of the AFC Women's Asian Cup, India will not have the privilege to play with the desired setting during the 2022 edition.
Indian captain Ashalata Devi generally remarked, “it’s a big challenge. A very big opportunity to create a hotspot for women’s football.” It sure could, for a place in the quarterfinals can become a script changer for the sport on the sub-continent as it dares a chance of stepping into the big league – the World Cup.
The Asian Cup this time around hands seven teams a chance to qualify for the 2023 World Cup co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand.
Ashalata and Co. know this for a fact and likewise the proportions of its impact. “The chance of qualifying for the World Cup will be huge and enormous,” she goes on.
‘WE ARE AWARE OF FANS SUPPORT’
Aware that all eyes would be on them, Ashalata explains, “we are aware fans won’t be around, but we know about the support.”
Relating a personal experience, the 28-year-old defender, cited a moment that touched her heart in seeing is believing situation. “When landed in Mumbai, and on the way to the hotel from the (team) bus we saw all the banners and pictures of us.”
She adds, “I speak for myself, what I saw cannot be expressed. My feelings go beyond and that’s when I also shared the same with my teammates. To see my banner screaming on the way, the sight touched. At that point, there was a rush of thought as to when that day could come to play for our supporters.”
Terming it, “a really motivating effect,” there has been a huge outreach by many on social media.
“I’d like to thank all our supporters, all who are supporting the team. I’d also like to ask them to keep supporting us and we keep working hard. We do hope they watch the games,” she said.
Ahead of tournament mode, Ashalata is realistic and feels that going into any tournament or any match is a combination of pressure and excitement. “That’s normal. There’s no such pressure.”
LOOKING FORWARD: A WORLD OF EXPECTATIONS
With a “we are excited to play on our home ground,” Ashalata, with optimism adds, “we are hoping the AFC Women’s Asian Cup will elevate women’s football in our country.”
In a sort of correlative of ‘players being role models,’ Ashalata mentions that the teammates often discuss the point and understand how important it is to do so.
“When we go back home in our towns and villages there are many little kids - boys and girls - at different schools and academies who want to play football. We sometimes go and iron out the varied queries people have about football.”
Ashalata explains, “there's a big perception in many parts of the country that women should not be playing football. We try as much as we can to request parents to help their kids, especially the girl child to come and play the ‘beautiful game.’ And, yeah, we try to inspire as many little girls as we can.”
Now, that’s one of the aplenty reasons on-hand for the Blue Tigresses when they step out to not only prove themselves but also to inspire the multitudes of fans, women or children and create a future legacy.