By Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay,
AIFF Media Team
PASIGHAT: Bembem Devi, the most decorated woman footballer of the country, feels the robust domestic football pyramid structure has laid the "foundation stone" of the Indian Senior Women’s National Team for the future.
"Tournaments such as the Hero Senior NFC lay the foundation stone for a strong Women's National Team,” Bembem maintained on the sidelines of the ongoing Hero Senior Women's NFC 2019-20.
"All players in the National Team have come through ranks from sub-junior, junior and senior national championships. It always helps them gain experience and hone their skills which eventually, prove to be handy while representing India in the international stage," she added.
"Even some young girls rubbed shoulders with the senior players in IWL which is equally advantageous for the players in the long run."
“THIS IS CYCLIC PROCESS”
Of late, the average age of the Senior Women's National Team has gone down significantly, and Bembem believes it has happened majorly because of the domestic competition structure.
"During my initial days, there were a few girls who were 19 or less. With time, more youngsters have started to get selected for the National Team. As a result, the average age has gone down which is a major positive side of the National Championships. It couldn't have been possible without the domestic tournament structure,” she stated.
"I remember Bala (Devi), Prameshwori (Devi), Pyari (Xaxa) and a few other girls came into the National team set-up quite early. I still remember they were very shy and I, personally, tried to break the ice so that they can play freely. Now, they have taken up the mantle,” she smiled.
Bembem, who had won 13 Senior National Championships for Manipur including eight as captain, mentioned Daya as a prime example who got benefited from the system.
"Daya broke into the National Team before she was 19. That's the success story of National Championships and IWL. These girls, with their National team experience go back and help their state teams in the Nationals. This is a cyclic process."
“CHANGE IS BOOSTING WOMEN’S FOOTBALL OVERALL”
Defending champions Manipur are renowned for their fluidity in attacking and their natural scoring ability. They have already scored 35 goals in 4 matches so far having conceded only 2.
“Manipuri girls grow up together and most of them play together since the sub-junior days which create a strong understanding within the team. That’s the secret of Manipur’s success story,” Bembem opined.
“During my playing days, competition amongst Bengal, Odisha, Punjab and Manipur used to be fiercer. But at that time, fewer teams used to participate. That trend has changed recently, and the change is boosting women’s football overall,” Bembem explained in reference to 29 state teams competing in the ongoing Hero Senior Women’s NFC.