By Soumo Ghosh,
AIFF Media Team
MUMBAI: It's a new beginning for the Blue Tigresses as they take on the massive challenge of representing a country of 1.3 billion dreams in the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 in Mumbai.
While the initial target remains to reach the last eight stage, and give themselves a shot at qualifying for the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Indian team -- the youngest in Group A with an average age of 23.13, will look to its young Tigresses to come of age.
"We've got so many youngsters in our team. There are 20-year-olds, 18-19-year-olds, and even a 16-year-old," said Sanju Yadav. "But playing for the senior team at this young an age means that you must come of age mentally. I think these youngsters that we have are very mature."
Football is often deemed as a physical sport, but the mental fitness required in the game is just as important. Sanju believes that the youngsters who have made the final list of 23, have been brought in on the basis of both their physical and mental strengths.
"Not everyone in a team will have the same physical capacity. But football is a game where mental aptitude is just as important, and these youngsters have shown a lot of that," she continued.
20-year-old Manisha Kalyan feels that it has been a learning process for her in the senior team over the last few years.
"Every youngster has to adapt themselves to senior football, and it took me a couple of years of being on the fringes, after I was brought in from the U-19 team," said Manisha.
Manisha, who stole the headlines in November last year, with her goal against World No. 7 side, Brazil, is not one resting on her laurels.
"That's all in the past. We don't know who will make the starting XI, or who will come on from the bench, but one thing we do know is that the coaches select us because of the players we are in the present, and nothing what we have done in the past," she stated.
"That goal against Brazil was a great moment personally, and I will look back from time to time in my low moments and try to take strength from it. But the Asian Cup is a much bigger stage," continued Manisha. "A good performance here could change Indian Football."
Wonder girl from Jharkhand, Sumati Kumari, who has also dazzled with her displays on the wings, believes that with the Asian Cup coming up, it's time to step up for the youngsters.
"We have all been given some valuable lessons in football and in life by the coaches and the senior players over the last 6 months. Now, it's time for us to repay their faith in us and put those learnings into practice. There's no better stage than the Asian Cup to do so," she stated.
The Blue Tigresses will take on IR Iran (December 20), Chinese Taipei (December 23), and China PR (December 26) in Group A of the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022. All the matches will be broadcast live on the Eurosport channel and streamed live on Jio TV.