Interview: India's women's footballer Jyoti Ann Burrett - Enormous talent in the villages
You got into the Indian women’s national team. How were you accepted amongst your teammates?
At first, any team is sceptical of new players. It’s natural. It takes time to build a rapport on and off the field. A lot of the other players have been playing together in their states or for the national team, but as this was my first national team experience and I was the only player from Delhi, I had to get to know everybody from scratch. It took a while, but eventually, I felt very much part of the team and made a few close friends.
How was the experience at the AFC Women’s Championship qualifiers in Palestine?
Being my debut tournament, the experience was unforgettable. Everything was incredibly well organized and we felt very welcomed by our hosts. It was lovely to see so many other professional women footballers living their dreams. The feeling of singing the Indian National Anthem before every match was extremely moving and instilled everyone with an added zest to perform.
In recent weeks you have been in the news for picking a career in football over a plush office job. Are you happy with this decision or do you regret it?
I never regret my decision to play football. It’s what makes me happy and what I feel I’m best at. A passion can never be sidelined. I am fortunate to have a sports-loving family. Nothing could make them prouder than seeing me be a professional sportswoman.
What is your personal ambition in football?
I would love to play for the national team for as long as I can. In the short term, I am looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers. I still feel I haven’t peaked, performance wise yet, and would like to work on my weak points so that I can develop into a better player.
How do you see women’s football in India?
It is difficult to predict the progression of women’s football in India, but even over the last six years I have seen changes in the right direction. The very fact that I am being given this opportunity to share my experiences is an indicator that it is becoming more visible to the public. With more such media coverage, professional inputs and financial backing, the situation can improve vastly.
What do you think needs to be done to support and promote women’s football in India?
I think Indian football needs work to be done at the grass root level. I think it’s the smaller villages and towns that have the most potential and can produce exceptional players.
For example, the recent phenomenal success of the Jharkhand tribal girls’ team in Spain is testimony to the fact that talent is present but just needs to be given an opportunity to shine. Financial support and more playing opportunities are key for Indian women’s football is to grow.