The 26-year-old spoke at length about various topics including the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and the preparations ahead of the COTIF Cup.

Aditi Chauhan is one of the most recognisable figures when it comes to women’s football discourse in India. The goalkeeper is an integral part of the Indian national women’s team and has had the privilege to represent West Ham United Ladies in England as well, becoming the first Indian women player to play in the English league football.

The custodian has high hopes from the U-17 team ahead of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup to be hosted by India next year and also expressed her views on the recently concluded 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 2019 SAFF Women’s Championship triumph, the preparation of the national side leading up to the crucial COTIF Cup and more. Excerpts:

Q1: For a young, developing team like yours, how do you strike a balance between performances and results?

A- The exposure and experience that we’ve got since December has been a really important part in this team’s development. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of youngsters, so it was good for us to have these sort of international practice matches and friendly matches to prepare us for major tournaments like SAFF and second round of Olympic Qualifiers.

Huge credit to the girls as well to step up and own up that responsibility to be a younger side with a lot of expectations going into SAFF. I think everyone owned up to their part really well and that is why we could get the results in SAFF and Olympic Qualifiers.

The player talks to us about the ongoing COTIF Cup, their plans for the AFC Qualifiers and how the Indian Women’s team should prepare for the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup 2020

Q2: Who do you see as your toughest opponent in the upcoming COTIF cup?

A- We don’t know the final teams that are going be participating, but since we played last year also in the COTIF Cup, there are a few high standard of clubs from Spain that participated and few international teams also who participate. We know overall that the standard of football is gonna be really high.

With last year’s experience, we didn’t win any match there. For us, our focus there is to win a few matches and get a good result because we’ve got a good exposure and a good number of matches since December. So, we are definitely at a level higher than what we were previously and that is the reason we have a lot of expectations going into this tournament this time.

Q3: How crucial is a good display in a tournament like this in the grander scheme of the development of the team?

A- I think it is very important because we got good results at SAFF and Olympic Qualifiers. That’s why we’ve gotten a lot of media coverage, lots of talk about the future of this team and how we couldn’t be playing in the World Cup sooner than maybe the men’s side. So, that’s brought a lot of responsibility and exposure for the whole team.

To grow women’s football in India further, it’s our responsibility to keep performing really well and keep getting good results to have sustainable interest. That’s how we’re going to put Indian women’s football on the map and keep getting more investment from the private sector.

Coach Maymol Rocky has tremendous amount of faith in the goalkeeper

Q4: What are the key areas which you are looking for the team to show improvement in the COTIF Cup?

A- We know it’s going to be very physical and greater intensity of matches because that’s the kind of football played in Europe. We saw the standard of football and how much it has improved in the recently concluded World Cup as well and that’s the platform we want to achieve.

These are the small steps we need to be taking. We need to be doing well in the COTIF Cup, where we play the local clubs from Spain and that’s the standard we want to achieve.

Q5: Talking about the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year, how do you think the team should prepare for the tournament?

A- I think it’s a huge opportunity for Indian women’s football, especially when you’re hosting the U-17 World Cup. It could be a huge change as to how women’s football is seen in India and I’m sure that the team has been performing really well. They’ve got a few international matches under their belt now in the last month.

They have got some really good results. They’re going to be joining back soon again as a team and it’s now time for them to step up and play more competitive matches against higher ranked teams. Those are the results that will give us a clearer picture of where we stand and what to expect from them in the World Cup.

Q6: You have represented West Ham United previously. Could we see you return to Europe for a second stint?

A- Well, there has been some interest, but I’m not sure at this point in my career if I’ll be going back or playing abroad in any club because I am enjoying being part of the national team. As one of the senior players, I see there is a lot of responsibility on me as well.

I am enjoying the kind of role that I am in. Now, that I’ve started my own football academy also, I want to make sure that I am contributing back to women’s football and trying to grow and provide a platform for more girls to pursue their passion.

Q7: Based on that experience, would you recommend that more girls should seek opportunities overseas?

A- Ofcourse, I think it’ll be a great experience and a great benefit if they do come back to India and share that experience with youngsters. I think it’ll be a big help and push to promote women’s football and improve the standards of women’s football.

I would encourage anyone and everyone who gets that opportunity to grab onto it and get that experience. Go out there and see the world and see what kind of standard it is abroad. Try match(ing) up to that standard and see what it takes to get there. I think that’s a huge plus point and I would encourage everyone to go for it whenever they can.