Youngest player in AFC Women's Asian Cup, India's Shilky Devi says father supported her more than mother
The teenager from Manipur is the only one who is also eligible to play in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
At 16 years and 2 months, Indian defender Shilky Devi is the youngest player in the upcoming AFC Women's Asian Cup and the teenager feels the experience of playing with the senior team will hold her in good stead at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Shilky is among 15 players in the Indian squad under head coach Thomas Dennerby, who are under the age of 25 at the AFC Asian Cup, which starts here on Thursday.
The teenager from Manipur is the only one who is also eligible to play in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup also to be held in India later this year. "It's a very good learning experience for me and the others who have joined with me from the U-19 squad," Shilky was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). "I am playing with so many senior players here and this will definitely help me going into the U-17 World Cup.
"I hope to pass on this knowledge and experiences to my teammates at the U-17 level and we can only learn from this. This experience will definitely help me going forward," she added. Other than Shilky, who has already made her senior debut against Brazil last year, the Indian side has three players from the U-19 national team – Priyangka Devi, Sumati Kumari, and Mariyammal Balamurugan.
"To make the jump to the senior level, you have to work harder, not just on the pitch, but off it as well. We see the seniors maintaining so much discipline just to get that extra yard on the pitch, and that really rubs off on us. Every day is a learning experience for me here," Shilky said. Born in a small village of Moirang in Manipur, Shilky started playing at an early age and has come through the SAI Academy in Imphal.
"Many had told me that I should concentrate on studies instead of football, early on, including my mother. But my father always supported me. He loves to watch me play football," Shilky said. "Personally, I prefer playing as a defender more than as a striker, ever since I learned how to play in this position. I can see the entire game in front of me, and can help organize my team and influence the match from defence quite a lot," she added. India start their AFC campaign on January 20 against Iran.