The midfield star also feels her side will soon qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup as well.

The Indian women’s team is all set to face Vietnam once again in an international friendly on November 6. Ahead of what promises to be an exciting week for the Indian Women’s team, Khel Now caught up with one of the national side’s most important cogs – Manisha Kalyan, who started off on a rather nostalgic note.

“Initially, although I was more interested in basketball and athletics, it was my coach, a former player himself, who motivated me to play for the football team. After completing a week’s trial with the rest of the team, I quite enjoyed the game and continued playing football from there on in.”

“We only used to play in the local grounds within the village, that was until I got admitted in a better school, where the football coaches were excellent, that was quite a distance away from my house.”

“It was here that I began to train properly and eventually, got called up to play at the national level. As time went along, I started to gain experience as well as ability thanks to my training and I went on to join Sethu FC to play in the Hero Indian Women’s League (IWL).”

Grassroots Development Of Women’s Football In India

Further, she was questioned about the state of grassroots development in Indian women’s football and whether there has been an improvement in terms of resources of opportunities for the next generation.

“Back when I started playing, I was already 13-14 years old, but with all the infrastructure that’s coming up, there are places where kids can go to learn the fundamentals of the sports from a very young age,” Manisha quipped.

“By understanding the basics, the kids of the next generation will find it easier to cope with the increasing standards in the sport and will be able to focus on the specific attributes they wish to improve, rather than trying to improve their overall game,” she added.

Gokulam Kerala

Speaking about her current stint with Gokulam Kerala, the midfield star only had positive words to say, “I am enjoying my stay with the Gokulam squad as they provide us with all the necessities and have good quality resources as well. Working under Priya ma’am, who’s been a part of the national team picture as well, has been very good for us and we’ve got to learn quite a bit from her during our time together as well.”

On AFC Women’s Asian Cup & FIFA Women’s World Cup

The Odisha-born footballer was then asked about India’s chances of qualifying for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, to which she responded, “We have already been putting in a lot of effort to try and achieve this goal, so I feel like we’ll definitely qualify this time around. I believe that we’re putting in a lot of hard work and dedication towards this cause and the senior team will soon qualify for the (FIFA) Women’s World Cup as well.”

Speaking about her experience with the BRICS U-17 camp, Kalyan said, “That was my first international camp and I was extremely happy when I found out I got selected. When I arrived, the quality of all the players around was quite clear to see and although the playing style took me a while to get used to, I eventually started to blend in perfectly.”

“I even played in the starting XI against some of the best teams in the world, which offered me an excellent opportunity to learn and develop even further. It came as a reality check; to compare them with ourselves and see just how far away from the standard we are, has helped us grow as footballers as well.”

She went on to add that her inspirations growing up have always been Argentine superstar Lionel Messi and Brazilian legend Ronaldinho. Finally, when asked if she had any messages for the U-17 team that is set to feature in the World Cup next year, to which she replied, “Do your best on the pitch and make your country proud.”