Women's Football
Shilji Shaji setting the bar high in the Indian U-17 Women's Team
22 Mar 2023

The success of Women’s Football is high on the Federation’s list of priorities, and as per the objectives in Vision 2047. The-aiff.com is present with the U-17 Women’s National Team in Bangladesh, to follow the upcoming stars of Indian Women's Football in their SAFF U-17 Women's Championship campaign.

Navaneeth K
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: Three matches, eleven goals - those are Shilji Shaji's figures in her brief career as an Indian Women's U-17 Team midfielder. In February, she rampantly scored four goals each in India's 7-0 and 6-0 friendly wins over Jordan. On Monday, she was on target thrice, helping the Young Tigresses cruise to a solid 4-1 win over Nepal in the SAFF U-17 Women's Championship opener.

Hailing from Kakkayam in Kozhikode, Kerala, Shilji just turned 16 a week ago. She started playing football at Kallanode School in fifth class. "My father played football, and he sent me to play as well. Very few girls of my age used to play football. So I mostly played with senior girls," she says.

The start of Shilji's journey into the national team only began last year when she was selected to play for Gokulam Kerala FC in the inaugural edition of the Khelo India U-17 Girls League. "When I got selected for the sports school, my family was very happy. I've got my father, mother, my grandmother, and sister in my family. Because a lot of people were working hard in the selections, I consider it a blessing that I got selected," she humbly states.

Shilji's blessing continued as she was picked up for the latest batch of the Indian U-17 team after a selection trial in Kerala. The squad set up camp in Chennai under head coach Priya PV to prepare for the SAFF U-17 Women's Championship in Bangladesh and the AFC U-17 Women's Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 1 to be held in the Kyrgyz Republic next month.

"We have been training under Priya madam for the past two months. All the coaches here are very good and supportive. If we make any mistakes, they explain to us how to do it right," Shilji says.

Even though she is not an out-and-out forward but an attacking midfielder, Shilji always manages to sneak her way into the right place at the right time inside the box. Her tricky runs and quick legs were a constant headache for Nepal. Every Indian attack either started with her or was finished off by her.

With Bhutan, Bangladesh and even heavyweights Russia coming up next, the 16-year-old goal machine is in no mood to stop until she gets her hands on the SAFF trophy.

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