AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: In a first for women football in India, young fans got a chance to interact with the stars from the Indian National Women Team in a virtual meet and greet. Prior to their historic tour to Brazil, players Sanju Yadav and Indumathi Kathiresan took the time out for ten excited fans who were eager to speak to their idols and wish them well for the upcoming matches.
With matches being held behind closed doors and teams traveling largely in bio-bubbles due to COVID-19, the players’ interactions with fans have been minimal. The virtual meet was not only a unique opportunity for fans, but it also gave the players a chance to witness first-hand the support and love from their followers as they gear up to face Brazil (November 25), Chile (November 28), and Venezuela (December 1) in the coming days.
Speaking at the event, midfielder Indumathi said, “All of us are working hard and are extremely excited about our tour to Brazil. We are especially looking forward to playing against Marta and learning from her.” Sanju echoed her sentiment, while also praising the disciplined training under new coach Thomas Dennerby.
Their interactions with the fans, who ranged from budding footballers to young girls looking to take up the sport, resulted in some special and inspiring moments. When a 7-year-old girl talked about boys in the playground telling her that football is not for girls, Indumathi emphatically replied, “When I was playing at the state level, people often told me that this a sport for boys, not girls. Even at home, they used to ask me why are you playing a boys’ game? But nobody can tell you that this is not a girls’ game, and for that, we have to go out there and show them.”
Meanwhile, when a budding woman footballer asked Sanju how she made it from Haryana’s Bhiwani to Brazil, Sanju highlighted the importance of her family’s support from the beginning. “I first played football at school when our PT (physical training) teacher made us play the game during recess”, said the 23-year-old midfielder. “I soon developed an interest and started going out to play regularly. In the beginning, my family had no idea about it but when I started coming home late, they soon found out that I was playing football. Since that day, they have never stopped me. Thanks to their support, I soon made it to the national U-13 camp. To date, getting selected for that first Indian camp remains the most special moment of my career.”
Both Sanju and Indumathi were announced in the 23-member squad for the four-nation tournament in Brazil. The Indian side will also face Chile and Venezuela along with the host nation, becoming the first senior national team to play against these football powerhouses. The exposure tour is part of the team’s preparation for the Asian Cup to be held in Mumbai and Pune from January 2022.