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Indian Women's Football

US football is more dynamic and vertical, shares Aveka Singh in exclusive interview

Published at :May 11, 2024 at 4:28 PM
Modified at :May 11, 2024 at 4:28 PM
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Atawaris Warsi

Young footballer, Aveka Singh also shared her dream of playing for top European clubs.

Aveka Singh, a promising talent hailing from Delhi, embodies the resilience and ambition driving Indian women’s football forward. From her early days representing India at the youth level to making history as the first Indian woman to play Division 1 college soccer in the USA, Aveka’s journey reflects the progress of Indian women’s football on the global stage. 

Despite the challenges faced by the sport in India, Aveka remains dedicated to her passion, balancing her athletic pursuits with her studies in business economics. While making waves abroad, she holds a steadfast dream of returning to her roots, donning the national team jersey and contributing to the further advancement of women’s football in India. 

Khel Now recently had the honour of conducting an exclusive interview with Aveka Singh, during which she graciously shared her journey, challenges and aspirations in the world of football. Excerpts are below:

Igniting the Passion within

Aveka credits much of her passion for the sport to her dad. She shared that at the age of five, she began her journey in her bedroom, playing football with her dad. “I started playing in my bedroom with my dad when I was five years old. In PE class, I had a lot of friends like guys when I was little, and I would just follow them. It (football) just happened in school and grew my love for it.”

Family Support

She also mentioned the fabulous family support she has, which stands in contrast to the experiences of many aspiring footballers in India. “I am from a family which has supported me even now, and even since I was five, six, seven or 10 years old, and I definitely have had that support from my parents, from everyone in my family, my grandparents, even my friends, and also those in my school.”

Missing the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

The recent FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup was supposed to be hosted by India in 2020, but due to Covid was cancelled. Aveka reminisces about the same and says, “First it (FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup) was supposed to happen in 2020, which was my year and we were part of the team. So, we were already training when Covid hit. Because of that (pandemic) it got delayed so, my batch never got to play the World Cup. Not only was I part of the team, but also the vice captain and I was excited. Of course, the World Cup is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Women in Football

Aveka Singh shared about her experience of facing skepticism from others regarding her playing football. Like many others, she too believes that the introduction of the Indian Women’s League (IWL) has significantly benefited Indian women footballers over the years.

“Indian football with AIFF, they are changing it with the IWL. Women players are actually becoming paid, which means there is a possibility of a professional life in Indian football for women.”

She also highlighted that women’s football too, must have a vision as compared to men’s 2047 vision. “They (men’s football) already have a vision that by this year they want to make the World Cup. They are all working towards that. If there was a nice vision for women as well, where we would all work towards it together, I think that would be really good for Indian football. But I believe this project is still in the works.”

Difference between Indian football and US football

US women’s football has indeed seen significant growth over the years, highlighted by their record four FIFA Women’s World Cup victories.

When asked about the differences between US and Indian football, the footballer shared, “For football in the US, we simply run a lot. It’s a lot of athleticism, physical battles are there, but it’s more dynamic and more vertical. It’s more of transitions and running a lot up and down the field. It’s all about survival there. In India, we have a long way to go in general. It’s a slow game. It’s more professional, 90 minutes of football. Over here (in the US) you have different rules like unlimited subs. In India, we haven’t established a way of play.”

Lessons learnt from Thomas Dennerby

Aveka Singh also remembered the different coaches she has met in her life, but the one who stands out for her is Thomas Dennerby, the Swedish coach. She highlighted the lessons she learned from him and said, “When I was with the U-17 Women’s World Cup squad, that was the first time we got a foreign coach, Thomas Dennerby. He was the coach of the senior women’s team until November.”

She added, “That was a big lesson of learning. He was a big influence. He introduced not only me but the whole Indian women’s team to the world of Swedish football, the world of international football. He showed us that we weren’t as fit as other countries were, at least in the women’s space. He showed us different ways to play and more tactics.”

International exposures and it’s benefits 

The young female footballer also highlighted the importance of international exposure and shared how the same has helped her grow in her career. “So much. Being exposed to international players and people and cultures is so eye opening. There are a hundred different ways of playing football. We have so much to learn from everyone and respect everyone.”

She shared how watching different teams makes a player feel motivated and inspiring. “Playing Sweden, that was the hardest game that I have played. They are just so good. Being exposed to that and seeing the athletic abilities made me feel personally, that they are girls just like me, same age, two hands, two feet, same brain, and I can also do what they are doing.”

Winning the U-15 SAFF Championship

Aveka Singh also expressed the delight and joy she felt after winning the U-15 SAFF championship in 2018 as vice captain and lifting the player of the match award in the final. She said, “It is the most significant one for me. It’s my best memory of football. Even if it was the U-15 SAFF trophy, it’s the best memory in my heart, because you win with India, wear the colours, wear your pride, carry the national team to victory. So, definitely that was my best experience ever. For us, it meant like the World Cup final.”

Career Aspirations

Lastly, she also shared her plans for the future and her career aspirations. “I have a lot of aspirations. For the national team, I want to be a big part of it now and in the future. One bigger goal that I have is taking India to the World Cup, to the Women’s World Cup and representing India, because that is a dream for all Indians. Personal goals, I want to definitely play in the top leagues and divisions in Europe. My end goal is FC Barcelona or Arsenal. People may think I am crazy, but I think it’s possible. I also want to play in the Champions League.”

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