The custodian also mentioned that the national team is making tangible progrss under head coach Mamol Rocky.

The Indian national women’s team are all set to face off against Vietnam in the second of two international friendlies scheduled for November 6. Prior to the team’s departure to Hanoi, we caught up with goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan, who had the honour of being the first Indian to ever play for West Ham United Ladies. She went on to speak extensively about her experience in the UK and how it helped mould her as a player.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to have got the opportunity to play in England, to spend two years playing for West Ham United,” she reminisced about her time in English football.

“I know there are a lot of talented Indian girls who would’ve done a very good job, if they had got this chance. It was very special for me because the standard of football is much higher – the pace and intensity of the game is much faster and there’s a higher physicality too,”  Aditi Chauhan opined.

“As a keeper I was expected to play out from the back and be good with my feet. These skills aren’t required in India. This has definitely made me a better footballer though,” the keeper added.

On Her Ambitions

Speaking of her ambitions in general, Aditi Chauhan quipped, “I went abroad to do sports management because I wanted a career in sports, even though I had stopped playing football. About coaching itself, I’m not sure if this is the right time. As much as I want to get my licenses to see where I stand, I’d much rather get into the administrative side of the game, which is what I learnt on my course. This has helped me a lot over the years and played a huge part in me opening an academy.”

Aditi Chauhan was asked about the pressures of being the national team’s first-choice goalkeeper, to which she responded, “Obviously, there is pressure that comes with being the goalkeeper, because it’s a very important position. Goalkeepers have the power to motivate the whole team by making one top save and I’m very grateful for this opportunity that I’ve been given. I’ve always worked hard in training and during matches because I always try to set the benchmark for the future players of the team.”

On Maymol Rocky

There was a sparkle in Aditi Chauhan’s eyes when head coach Maymol Rocky was mentioned to her and she went on to say, “We have improved a lot as a team since she took over, because she’s been with the squad for a very long time and knows the attributes of every player in and out. She is constantly posing us with challenges and helping us improve both individually and as a team – that is probably what is different from the previous managers that we’ve had.”

“Every chance that I get to play for India is a big deal for me and it’s not something that I would take for granted. Obviously, with regard to the IWL, there will be more teams to compete against and like the ISL, it it still improving every year. The qualifiers also have been much more structured this time as well,” she said regarding the league structure in India and how the transition from UK to India has been.

India will  host the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year. Speaking about the tournament, Aditi Chauhan added, “I have very high hopes about our U-17 team because they have been given an excellent opportunity. This could be a game-changer for Indian football because if we are able to put up a good show, then it will be recognized by the rest of the world.”

Finally, the 26-year-old was asked about the national team’s chances of qualifying for the Women’s World Cup. She went on to say, “Realistically, yes, we do have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup, but it would require a lot of hard-work from every player in the team. Moreover, it is necessary for India to create a more structured grassroots programme to ensure that all the talented girls are given the opportunity that they deserve and that we’re able to keep India at the same level consistently.”

The Indian women face Vietnam in the second match on November 6.