From Our Correspondent
SHILLONG, Feb 1: Oblivious to the hustle bustle around the JN Sports Complex, a group of dedicated and thoroughly professiol women are sweating it out to ensure they defend the top honour earned by the side in the last edition of the 12th South Asian Games.
The tiol camp for the Indian women’s team is underway at the artificial turf practice ground for over two weeks now.
Top female footballers of the country who have represented the tion umpteen times in various intertiol events are preparing hard to see to it that India repeats the feat it achieved in the last South Asian Games in Dhaka; that of emerging champions in women’s football event.
The side is a mix of experience and youth. On one hand there is someone like Oim Bembem Devi who has been playing for India for the last 20 years while on the other there is Aditi Chauhan, a youngster from Delhi who became the first Indian girl to play for a British football club.
“The team gels well,” says head coach Sajid Dar who is confident that his girls will go on to defend the title.
“The girls have been here for a while to acclimatize themselves and the team has shaped up well…I am very hopeful that we will defend the title,” said Dar on the sidelines of a practice match of the India players with a junior Shillong Lajong FC team.
For veteran Bembem Devi, this will be the last tourment of her career and without doubt the Games are going to be special for her.
“It’s special for me and India for this is the first time we will be playing at home,” she said.
The chilly weather in Shillong is not a problem for “once you get into the pitch all that matters and is in your mind is the performance.”
She also promised to the football fans that the Indian women’s team will do all it can to defend the title.
Meanwhile, two-times AIFF woman player of the year, Bala Devi said that the team is all pepped up for the Games and looked forward to some quality football during the Games.
Bala Devi who had scored as many as 16 goals in 5 matches in the SAFF Women’s Championship in Pakistan in 2014 said she will do her best to better that record this time.
West Ham United Ladies goalkeeper Chauhan said that the conditions in Shillong are similar to those in England and she enjoyed her stay and preparations here. She too was confident that the side will put up a good show in the SAG.
32 Players have been shortlisted for the aforementioned tiol Camp and the list of the shortlisted players follows below:
GOALKEEPERS: Okram Roshini Devi (Manipur), Aditi Chauhan (Delhi), Panthoi Chanu (Manipur), Pushpa Tirkey (Jharkhand)
DEFENDERS: Romi Devi (Manipur), Ashalata Devi (Railways), Radharani Devi (Manipur), Manisa Pan (Railways), Umapati Devi (Manipur), Sumitra Marandi (Jharkhand), Supriya Routray (Railways), Lako Phuti Bhutia (Sikkim), Dalima Chhiber (Delhi)
MIDFIELDERS: Oim Bembem Devi (Manipur), Premi Devi (Railways), Indumathi Kathiresan (Puducherry), Sangita Basfore (West Bengal), Margaret Devi (Manipur), Pyari Xaxa (Odisha), Sasmita Malik (Railways), Michel Castanha (Goa), Abeer Arsiwala (Maharashtra), Dorothi Oreya (Assam)
FORWARDS: Bala Devi (Manipur), Prameshwori Devi (Manipur), Kamala Devi (Railways), Jyoti Burrett (Delhi), Dangmei Grace (Manipur), Mandakni Devi (Manipur), Sanju (Harya), Riroy Devi (Manipur), Saki Nisha (Odisha)
HEAD COACH: Sajid Dar .