International Women's Day Special: Interview with Bembem Devi - A role model for Indian women's football
A name synonymous with the Indian’s women’s football team is Oinam Bembem Devi. Known for her excellent ball control, footwork and dribbling, the midfielder was born in Imphal, Manipur. Oinam Bembem Devi started her journey as a footballer back in 1991 when she was selected to represent the Manipur u-13 team in the sub-junior football tournament.
The turning point in her career came at the 1996 Asian Games, where the Indian national team were drawn in a group alongside Japan and neighbors Nepal . They lost to Japan1-0 and won against Nepal 1-0 to progress from the group with Japan.In round 2 they would be drawn in a tough group alongside the national teams of Uzbekistan , Turkmenistan and North Korea. They lost all their matches but by then Oinam Bemben Devi had announced her arrival at the national stage .
All India Football Federation(AIFF), the All Manipur Football Association awarded her the Best Women Footballer Of The Year Of Manipur in the same year. In 2013 , after a gap of 12 years the 2nd Women’s footballer of the year of India was awarded, which was again awarded to Bembem.
Q. How tough/easy was it to convince the people around you that you would be taking up a career in Indian football
It was not very difficult as in my state there was a lot of awareness about women’s football. My dad always pushed me to study but never objected on playing football and rest of my family members were very supportive.
Q. What are the problems faced by women/girl athletes in India?
There are many different problems in different areas of our country. But nowadays women are making progresses in every sport in India and abroad. I would like to say that the main problem faced by our women athletes is encouragement and they should not be jailed in the walls of the house but left as free birds to reach new heights of accomplishment.
Q. What do you think is the biggest issue faced by women in Indian Football?
Bembem: The more the exposure tours that come our way, the faster will we progress and climb up the FIFA Rakings.
Q. What structure do you propose for development of Indian football?
There should be a women’s league like ISL, so that our women’s get to play with foreign players gain experience from their style of play and in terms work hard for Indian women’s football.
Q. Do you think somebody has been inspired by you?
Yes I am sure many of them get inspired by my play because I work hard whenever I am on the field and I give to full strength and concentration to contribute for my team.
Q. Advice for young budding talent?
If you are a good footballer there will be opportunities and when you get them work hard, be honest , concentrate on the game, follow what your coaches and seniors guide you , maintain discipline in and off the field.
Q. How do you celebrate this day if you were back in your hometown/state?
Actually this year we were planning to organise a football match between National Team Players and the new budding talent in my state. Also we thought of inviting the ex-Indian player who had contributed a lot of the women’s football so that they can guide the upcoming players.
Q. ‘Make it happen’ is the slogan for the International women’s day; how do you connect with it? What message would you send out?
We think about lot of things during the course of our life. I feel that every women who decides to choose a path which is different and unique should always strive for her dreams. I feel that I made it happen so my message to every women’s would be whatever you desire is just “MAKE IT HAPPEN”.