The tactician interacted with fans on Friday through an Instagram live session.

Women’s football in India has come a long way and one of the anchors in that journey has to be the Indian Women’s National Team head coach Maymol Rocky. Hailing from Kerala, Maymol Rocky currently stays in Goa and just like any other girl, she had her usual struggle to pursue football as a professional. Coming from an athletic background, she broke into the state team and never looked back.

“I started playing football in 2000. Earlier I was an athlete at the SAI academy. Then I was informed about a football trial by my coach. I wasn’t much aware of football, I only saw my brother playing in the garden. But, then, I went and slowly went up the ranks and then there was no looking back.”

“In my family, my father and brother were very passionate about sports. But. my mother was against us with all the injuries but my father dominated the house (chuckles),” she said.

The 40-year-old had the opportunity to pay a visit to the 2019 Women’s World Cup. where she was amazed by the stadium atmosphere. She also recounted her interaction with arguably the biggest name in women’s football- Megan Rapinoe.

“I was in the FIFA Programme and it was so good going to the stadium. I was just hoping that if we can play at this stage. I am eagerly waiting for the U-17 team to play in the World Cup next year. I shared my experience with my players and they were all very excited. I watched Australia playing Brazil and what an atmosphere it was! Earlier, I used to think that we are very far behind. But now ,I feel we are behind but not so much.”

“I had a small chat with her after she won the World Cup. Her attitude and personality define her. I feel our players should have that kind of attitude. It is not about being egoistic, but it is the game that makes you that way. She has worked very hard to be there,” added Maymol Rocky, reminiscing her experiences at the biggest stage.

Coming back to her coaching career, Maymol Rocky came to the helm in 2017 and since then, the team has done well. In 2019, they won the SAFF Championship and are also the reigning winners of the South Asian Games. Rocky also inspired the national team to reach the second round of the Olympic Qualifiers.

“I joined the national team in 2016 as an assistant to Sajid sir. Then in 2017, I led the team to the second round of the Olympic Qualifiers. The federation and even the government helped us in preparing for the next round. The team was very young. only Ashalata Devi and Aditi Chauhan were the experienced ones.”

Her appointment in 2017 has brought a lot of changes in women’s football. When quizzed about the primary changes that she has brought, Rocky said, “The only thing that I brought into the team was strength training. It was mainly emphasis on body strength and my physios helped the team a lot. We had two sessions of strength training and a technical session. It was difficult at first to make the players understand that these sessions are needed. Video analysis also helped us a lot, the players understood their mistakes and rectified them. We did emphasize on strength training and also improved their diet.”

Maymol Rocky also shared her stories about the “Durga of Indian football,” Bembem Devi and how she developed a bond with her during their playing days. ” Bembem was my roommate at my first India camp. She was the senior-most player and I was the youngest. From there on, we developed a great relationship. I remember her last match before retirement was the start of my coaching career. It was the South Asian Games in Shillong. She is definitely a legend of the game and it is good to know her personally.”

From one legend to another, the head coach then spoke about Bala Devi who is currently plying her trade in Scotland with Rangers. Rocky feels that the Manipuri, being one of the seniors, has paved the path for other youngsters to follow.

“Bala is a very hard-working girl, she is showing the way for other players. She used to come to me with all her questions and also spoke with the analyst about her game. It is not easy playing for a European club, I think the girls need to take the example of Bala Devi. Being the senior player in the team, she will motivate the youngsters.”

Then the focus shifted towards the senior side and how Rocky is preparing for the Women’s Asian Cup in 2022 which India will be hosting. She was very positive and also feels that the U-17 World Cup will open more opportunities for girls and will provide a larger pool for the national team.

“We are preparing for the Asian Cup in 2022 and the U-17 World Cup will help me in getting some new talents. Women’s football will get more popularity which is an advantage for me. If the base becomes bigger then we will have a larger pool for scouting. That is what I am looking forward to.”

“First of all with AIFF, we have a scouting department and we have many scouts all over India. As a team head coach, I want to watch as many matches as possible. When there is no camp, I travel a lot. I went for Khelo India and also some U-17 tournaments. If any scout spots a good young player, I instantly get a mail. But, I am always there in IWL speaking with the players, coaches and keeping track of everything,” Rocky went on to add about the process of scouting players for the national side.

The Indian Women’s League (IWL), ever since its inception in 2017, has been a huge hit. There has been a sheer rise in level and Maymol Rocky also concurs with the same.

“IWL is growing and gaining popularity, as we see players from other countries joining. Whenever I travel, people ask me about the opportunities to participate in the league. During the planning, I always thought that the girls should play in the IWL, as it will help them improve their game overall. It allowed youngsters to brush shoulders with national team players. The popularity is increasing every year and I am sure there will be a lot of ISL and I-League teams participating in the league in future.”

Lastly, she expressed her gratitude to the AIFF and the Government of India for all the support extended to women’s football.

“I feel 2019 was a historic year for women’s football in India. We travelled so much and played so many international matches. I think as a player and now as a coach, I can say that the players are very lucky that they were in this plan.”

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