India’s first woman footballer Bembem Devi lauds Kerala government for hosting Women’s Nationals


NEW DELHI: Bembem Devi, the first Indian women’s footballer to be conferred with the Padma Shri, praised the Kerala government for doing its bit for women’s football by hosting their National Championship.

The tournament is being played across four venues — Municipal Stadium, Kuthuparamba, EMS Corporation Stadium, Kozhikode, Calicut University, Kozhikode and Calicut Medical College Kozhikode — from November 28 to December 9.

Bembem Devi, who is the head coach for her state Manipur, said, “I am delighted to see that the Kerala government has taken this initiative to host the senior women’s nationals this year to develop women’s football.”

“The facilities, the hospitality that the players are getting is commendable. I also want to thank AIFF, who supported Kerala government for hosting the tournament so smoothly and taking Indian football forward together,” she told the All India Football Federation website.

She added, “Every year, many young girls have been taking part in the trials for the national camp from Kerala, as there is huge potential for women’s football in the state.” Recently, Gokulam Kerala FC participated in the AFC Club Championship, which was the only club from India to play in the continental top-tier competition.

Manipur, with 20 titles, are touted to be the favourites. This season, the state from the northeast is placed in Group A. They defeated Daman & Diu 5-0, Pondicherry 12-0 and Meghalaya 4-0 in the group stage.

She also lauded the football culture in her state. “Manipur has been the defending champions for the last two years. This year also, I want them to win. As a coach, I always advise my players to respect their opponents and not think they are weak. We aim to win every match and be the champions this season as well. Every player from Manipur gives their hundred per cent into the field. It’s a very competitive tournament, and I want the girls to give their best every day and make Manipur proud,” she informed.

Bembem Devi has always supported young girls to play the sport and urges every parent to let their children learn from the sport. “In the season, I have seen a lot of young and fresh faces, and I am pleased to see that 32 states in 8 groups have been participating, which is good for the development of women’s football in India. It’s also so nice to see parents encourage their daughters to play the sport and not sit in their villages to get married. This mindset was essential in every state to develop the sport in the coming years,” he said.

She also thanked the federation for organising many friendly matches for the national team as preparation for AFC Asian Cup, which the country will host in January-February next year.

“AIFF has been working hard to organize so many friendlies before the AFC Asian Cup 2022. I am so pleased to see the girls playing against top teams globally, and these matches from UAE, Brazil will surely help the girls develop themselves for the upcoming tournament. I wish them all the best for their AFC Asian Cup India 2022. I hope they will make the country proud,” she concluded.

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