Odisha to take on Manipur in women's national football final
Golaghat (Assam), May 11 (IANS) In a clash between youth and experience, Odisha take on Manipur in the final of the 20th National Women’s football championship at the Golaghat Stadium here Monday.
The nationals, the main platform for catching the eye of selectors for a place in the Indian senior team, could not have come to a better conclusion, says iconic footballer Oinam Bembem Devi.
“We have nine national team players in the first team, and Odisha is full of U-19 footballers. What better than to see the next generation of footballers playing against their senior counterparts in a Cup final,” Bembem, who’s captaining Manipur said.
“Odisha have done exceptionally well to reach this far. I believe that this final will further pep up the future India senior team players to give their all. This is healthy competition,” added the AIFF Women’s Player of the Year.
The north eastern outfit has won an incredible 16 titles out of the 19 championships held so far.
“I have always felt that the nationals is the best platform to unearth new talent. I am thankful to AIFF for organising it and I can see that it is already paying rich dividends,” the 34-year-old former India captain said.
Echoing Bembem Devi, goalkeeping coach of the senior team Chitra Gangadharan — who is also part of the AIFF deputed scouting team, adds: “Odisha’s progress in the final and Manipur’s domination show that women’s football in going in the right direction.”
“Manipur is loaded with senior team players including someone like Bembem who is an inspiration to one and all. Odisha have done exceptionally well and almost their entire squad represented Railways this time.
“Now when these players take the field against their seniors, it will give them the best opportunity to prove their mettle and seal a berth in the national team.”
Meanwhile, Odisha coach Shrandhanjali Samantaray said 17-18 players from the 20-member squad are taking part in the nationals for the first time.
“These girls are raring to go. They have made it this far and now they want to prove it against seasoned campaigners. It will be a lifetime experience for them,” he said.
“It will be so intense,” senior national team head coach Anadi Barua said.
“Everyone wants to play for India, and to earn that place you need to show your dedication. These Odisha girls have that hunger in them. They have the best chance to show it against the senior team regulars. It will be a great final from a national team coach’s point of view.”