Indian Football: "Our main goal is to qualify for the FIFA World Cup" quipped Dalima Chhibber
Dalima Chhibber of the Indian national side shared her experience of playing friendly matches in the UAE
The Indian women's football team has returned to India after their exposure tour set in to prepare for the upcoming AFC Women's Asian Cup. The Indian Eves faced Swedish top tier teams Hammarby IF and Djurgarden IF recently and despite the defeats, they showed great heart to fight against these teams.
Dalima Chhibber who has featured in over 40 matches for the Indian national side shared her experience of playing friendly matches in the UAE, Bahrain followed by a couple of matches in Sweden. She highlighted how the new coach has brought his philosophy and also how the youngsters have enjoyed game time.
"It has been an amazing experience to work on a new philosophy under our new coach. It has been great to come back together and getting these games was very important. We have a lot of junior players and everyone getting game time. Which has allowed us to reflect on our performances as individuals and also as a team," Dalima Chhibber told media at a press conference arranged by the AIFF.
The 24-year-old made her national team debut back in the 2016 South Asian Games against the Maldives. Since then a lot has changed in Indian football. When quizzed about the changes that Dalima has experienced since her debut, he explained, "I feel like a lot has changed, the team is a lot younger and fitter. There is a lot more exposure as we are going to a lot of tournaments. Thanks to the federation that they are giving us these opportunities".
"We now can play tougher opponents and can prepare us for the upcoming Asian Cup. So I feel like the change in coaching philosophy and training the girls are putting everything on the line. As our main goal is to perform well at the Asian Cup and hopefully qualify for the World Cup eventually," the former Gokulam Kerala defender quipped.
It has been a topsy turvy ride for Thomas Dennerby in India. But he has finally found his feet with the Indian Women's team. Dalima Chibber was full of praises for the Swedish tactician as she highlighted how understanding he has been for the entire team.
"Coach Thomas (Dennerby) is focusing on the overall development of the players. Every player is different and he has understood that different players need different things. Some need more aid in nutrition, strength, tactical issues, technical abilities. The coach has been working really hard to address all the issues for different players."
The AFC Women's Asian Cup will feature the top teams in the continent alongside the Indian Eves. So fitness will be the primary cause of concern for most people. But Dalima had only good things to say about the team's fitness and she feels that they are getting there right with the best in Asia. He stated how Dennerby has planned everything very meticulously to raise the bar of the players.
"I think we are pretty close", Dalima replied on being asked about India's fitness status in comparison with the other Asian teams. "We recently had a fitness test and it is something that we do regularly. The results reveal that in terms of fitness and performance, the team is getting there. Dennerby has worked with so many different teams. His name is synonymous with women's football and he has experience throughout the world. So he knows players and hence our team is very close to the ones that will be taking part in the upcoming Asian Cup".
"We have different training regimes catering to a different set of players starting from strength and conditioning sessions, intensity sessions, technical sessions, etc. All of that is helping us build up our fitness for the Asian Cup. The matches on the exposure tour have also helped us build our fitness. We still have two months to work on ourselves and also on our fitness. I think we are going to give a very tough fight to every team in the tournament," the versatile defender explained.
It will be interesting to see how new coach Thomas Dennerby manages the ladies and prepares them for the upcoming continental showpiece event. The Swedish tactician has a roster that has the right mix of youngsters and experienced players. While the youngsters will have the zeal to prove their point, experienced players like Ashalata Devi, Aditi Chauhan, Dalima Chhibber, etc. will also have a big role to play in their quest for the continental crown.