Women's Asian Cup 2022: On-field communication will be key to success, feels midfielder Indumathi
A sub-inspector in Tamil Nadu Police, Indumathi would never have imagined that she would one day play in the AFC Women's Asian Cup for the Blue Tigresses.
On-field communication, something that she struggled with in her initial days with the Indian women's team owing to the language barrier, will be the key to success in the upcoming AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022, midfielder Indumathi Kathiresan said on Thursday.
India will host the continental tournament from January 20 to February 6 in three venues across Maharashtra. "It's all about communicating on the field to fill in the missing areas, when you're playing in the midfield," Indumathi was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
"People mistake it to be pointing out the mistakes of others. But it's not about that. If I don't do it, they may not know what they've done wrong, and vice versa. When they (my teammates) look into my eyes on the pitch, they should know that even if they make an error, I'll give my life to come and help them; and when I look into their eyes, I too want to see the same."
While the 27-year-old midfield general stresses the importance of communicating with her teammates, it was not too long back that she herself found communication one of the hardest parts of football. The daughter of daily wage workers from Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, Indumathi completed her education in government schools with the help of scholarships, balancing both studies and sports. However, when she was called up to a month-long national team trials camp, the young midfielder found that she could not properly communicate with any of her teammates.
"I had then got called up for a National Team trial among 50 girls. But I was the only one from Tamil Nadu. No other girl spoke Tamil, and I could not speak either Hindi or English, so I could not really communicate with anyone," she recalled.
"Not being able to speak to anyone around you for more than a month is really difficult. Sometimes I used to cry on the phone to my mother, and she would tell me to come back, but I knew I couldn't do that. I didn't understand much of what others said to me, I just smiled and nodded and kept going," she said with a laugh.
"I've had to change a lot. All the coaches told me that I need to be able to speak with others because football is a sport where communication is essential. So I started to learn, and now I can manage," she said.
A sub-inspector in Tamil Nadu Police, Indumathi would never have imagined that she would one day play in a tournament of the stature of the AFC Women's Asian Cup for the Blue Tigresses.
"I'm 27 now. If you'd have asked me back in school or college whether I'd still be playing football till this age, I would probably have said, no. But I'm thankful that I can still do it. And I'm even more grateful that I'm getting to play the Asian Cup on home soil," said Indumathi.
"I now have a job in the Police as well, but football is my identity. This comes first and foremost. When you say Indumathi Kathiresan, I want you to first think of me as a footballer, and then as a Policewoman."
In her younger days, Indumathi has had to contend with the notion that football is not meant for women. "I've always had to balance football and studies. My parents, at first, did not want me to play football, but I continued anyway. Once I started playing in the NFCs, they began to realise that I could probably do something with my footballing career. But convincing them became more difficult when I'd get some injuries. As it is, I used to miss a lot of exams in my college because we were playing tournaments. We used to have separate exams, and once I had to sit for two semesters' worth of exams at the same time."
The Asian Cup is just around the corner, and the Blue Tigresses have played a number of friendly matches in the UAE, Bahrain, Sweden and Brazil as part of their preparation for the continental extravaganza. The midfielder feels that the matches were of a very high quality, something that puts the team in good stead.