The Nigerian also highlighted India’s efforts to develop women’s football.
The Hero Indian Women’s League has seen a number of foreign players shine this season. While most of these foreign players have been attackers, one particular player from abroad shone from the middle of the park.
Hans Women FC’s Rita Casia Ukachukwu has had a decent tournament with the Delhi-based outfit, holding their midfield together from a deep-lying role. Having played in the Hero IWL, Rita believes that the league has given her a good platform.
“The Hero IWL was a very big opportunity for me. I’ve never played for Hans before. The first time I walked out on the pitch with the FIFA Anthem playing, it was amazing. I don’t know how to describe it. But I told myself, this is where I want to be,” said Rita.
Women’s football in Nigeria is already at an advanced stage, and the competitiveness has really helped the sport. However, Rita believes that India has also taken the steps towards getting to that level.
“It’s very very competitive in Nigeria. I would say that women’s football is tougher than men’s football right now,” she said. “But I’m glad to see that India is also making a big effort to develop women’s football,” she added.
“Four-five years back I would not have been able to say the same thing. It was just like normal school or college football. But now we actually have a proper platform to show our talent here,” said Rita.
Unlike most foreign players, Rita is not someone who is here just for the IWL experience. In fact, a daughter to a Nigerian father and an Indian mother, she is very much invested in the Indian way of life.
Football has always been in her blood, as her father had played in the local leagues of Nigeria, while her sister had also played the game for a few years, before having to hang up her boots due to an injury. However, Rita now carries forward that footballing legacy, not in Nigeria, but in India.
Having lost her father in Nigeria at an early age, Rita’s family moved to India, where the young footballer spent the formative years of her life. Her mother, who works in a hotel in Mumbai, supported her in her endeavours to play football.
“Mom support – my mom told me not to worry about studies. She said, ‘as long as you pass, its okay. I know you love playing football, so work hard and try to do well there’,” said Rita.
However, it was not easy for the youngster who wanted her parent to watch her play football when she was a kid.
“Sometimes it does get a bit difficult with just one parent. If you are playing regularly, you would want your parents to watch you play. But since my mom was working she would not be able to come to my games,” said Rita.
“My mother used to make it up to me, though. She would always call me before a game and ask me how it was. It’s always good to know that she’s interested in the games. She calls me up after every game as well,” she smiled.
Hans may have failed to qualify for the semifinals in their last match against SSB, but Rita Casia hopes that the IWL dream goes on for women footballers in the country, helping to sport to grow further.
“A lot of people will tell you that football will take you nowhere. But if football is what you want to do, just do it. You don’t even have to listen to others,” she signed off.