AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022: "Felt my heart speed up after seeing our posters at Mumbai airport," says Ashalata Devi
Indian captain Ashalata Devi and coach Thomas Dennerby feel that the Women's Asian Cup 2022 will create a huge impact on women's football in the country.
Just a couple of days away from the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 tournament to begin, the Indian team head coach Thomas Dennerby and Ashalata Devi interacted with the media via a virtual press conference.
The Indian Asian Cup squad who had been training in Kerala, landed in Mumbai last week to begin their preparations for the upcoming tournament. On being asked about their arrival in Mumbai, captain Ashalata Devi said, "As soon as we landed in Mumbai I saw posters of myself and the team everywhere around the airport. Seeing this I felt overwhelmed and my heartbeat speed up. We also have an AFC Asian Cup poster and national flag on our bus."
"I told the girls we need to give our best performance for the fans, and everyone of us is itching to play and make the country proud," she added.
The captain also said that she always feels pressured and nervous before any age and this time it's no different. But playing on the home ground feels special.
"Pressure is always there but this is the first time we'll be playing on our home ground so it feels comfortable. Unfortunately, we won't have crowds in the stands but I can already feel the support from our home fans. I do hope they will keep supporting us on social media and other platforms, and keep encouraging the team."
Bio-bubble is something many sportspersons have had a problem with over the last two years. However, the Indian women's football team doesn't seem to be much affected by it. "At first it felt difficult training inside a bio-bubble, however, later we got used to it. Whenever the team felt tired and needed a break from football, we used to celebrate birthdays, play some games and always keep motivating each other."
As the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 is being held in India this year, it can be a turning point for women's football in the country. It might also help in changing people's perspective toward's the women's game.
"I and other players on the team are always trying to inspire the local children and help them learn the game. In India, girls are often told not to play football and we hope to change that mindset through our performance. I also urge parents to encourage their children, especially girls to take up football and support them."
Indian head coach Thomas Dennerby also wished the Women's Asian Cup helps to inspire more youngsters in the country to play football. "I would like to thank everyone for creating such a huge impact regarding the tournament. I hope that the Women's Asian Cup will be a huge success in the country and inspire many people to get involved in the game."
The AFC Women's Asian Cup begins on January 20, where India will play their first match against Iran at 7:30 pm IST.