Indian women's football team head coach Maymol Rocky is a satisfied lady. From January to April, the team showed significant improvement under her tutelage, despite the absence, for whatever reasons, of some stalwarts from the squad.
Rocky said the game against Myanmar, which the team drew 3-3, to narrowly miss out on qualification for the next round of the Olympic qualifiers, was particularly impressive because of the team's history against those particular opponents.
"We have generally struggled to score against them. Ratanbala (Devi) scored a free-kick before that match, but in this match, we scored clean goals," she said.
Rocky added that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) deserved praise for the way they have handled the women's team in the recent past.
"The Federation has given us so many tournaments to play, the squad has become so much better, as a result of that. I have to thank the Federation," the coach said.
But, what was the overriding emotion after that draw against Myanmar, which meant the Blue Tigresses went out on goal difference?
"Obviously, there was disappointed. But, you have to see Myanmar and that they are a superior side than us. For us to put in a performance like that was definitely something to be proud of," Rocky said.
Would she have done anything differently in that game, now that she looks back on it? Not at all, the coach said. "We gave it all we had, I know how good Myanmar are, we were very proud of the way we played against them," she said.
How have the last few months been for her, with this young squad? "It's been fantastic, the girls have grown, and not just as footballers," she quips.
"Even off the field, some of them were so shy at the start of the year, they wouldn't even talk to their roommates!" she said.
Rocky picked striker Sandhiya Ranganathan as one of those. "She never spoke to anybody, now I have to go and say, 'Haan, bas karo (Yeah, that's enough)'," Rocky said.
Rocky, who is attending the ongoing Women's Junior Nationals, said it is a humongous tournament for Indian football.
"As scouts and talent spotters, this tournament is always important, especially with the U17 World Cup coming up next year," she said.
However, Rocky did admit that while some players might be missed out on during the ongoing Junior Nationals, the best Indian squad will be selected by the end of this year, for next year's showpiece FIFA U17 Women's World Cup, which the country will host.
"We're going to miss out on a few players, we know that, but we'll gather the best team by the end of the year," she said.
Rocky is also hugely looking forward to the tournament next year.
"It is a U-17 World Cup, and I hope it is something that will inspire more girls to take up the sport. I have already seen in the last couple of years that more girls are becoming open to taking up football as a career," she said.
The Indian Women's Team head coach has already done a stellar job under some trying circumstances with a young squad - the average age of which was just over 21, in the Olympic Qualifers in Myanmar.
"The girls are growing, and I want them to keep growing, keep getting better," she signed off.Published 24 Apr 2019, 15:16 IST