The versatile player spoke about her reasons for moving to Canada, the importance of the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and more.

Dalima Chhibber, the woman who scored a Ronaldinho-esque goal to give India the lead in the final of their 2019 SAFF Women’s Championship, is moving away from Indian football for her studies. She declared on social media that she is going to Canada to pursue Sports Psychology, along with concentrating on her development as a professional.

But, before her departure in mid-August, she was present at the launch of the Diamond jubilee edition of Subroto Cup, where she briefly talked about her future in Canada and beyond.

The player is young and after cementing her place as India’s prime right-back, the decision came out of the blue. She said, “My career being at peak it’s not that I am missing out, like I won’t be there with the national team, but I am exposing myself to more football. I am going to a country which is known for women’s football. The culture of women’s football is there in USA and Canada.”


 

The Ronaldinho-esque goals she scored from 40 yards


“I would not really say that I am taking a break and concentrating on studies (alone). I have got 100% scholarship to study there on the basis of my performance (in football). There, I get to play more football with players from all around the world and I feel I can also manage my academics. It will only help me develop as a player.”

The Canadian football structure is a bit different from Europe. Apart for clubs competing in distinguished divisions, Canada has its universities contesting in similar divisions and Chhibber is fortunate to have already been selected to play in the top division.

“They have a professional structure. The season goes on for a really long time and so I would be playing in the first division for the varsity team. Though they do not have a club culture there, but they are still one of the best in women’s football.”

“I do have the experience of playing as the right-back and a central midfielder for the Indian team and as a striker in my U-14 days. With all the experience, I am going there. it will depend on the coach for where to play me,” said Dalima who is upbeat about being in Canada and giving her all on the pitch.

While it was a tough call to give up her place in the national team, the 21-year-old cleared the air as she said, “Women’s football, in general, is something that has started to gain a little recognition now. People are entering it. But, in India, I see that as a far-fetched goal at the moment. That is the reason I chose Canada. I can see a future as a footballer, but I cannot see football sustaining me as a person.”

She continued as she seemed practical with her set goal and clear about how to achieve it. “It all boils down to exposure we get. I would not mind playing in an international club. I would love that. Abroad, I would get a lot of exposure. It is very important to play with or against such quality players.”


Dalima has a knack for long-range goals, as she revealed that her father and her coach used to train her since the beginning


On the chances of India making the Women’s World Cup after FIFA increased the total number of participating teams from 24 to 32 she said, “In the coming 3-4 years, you will see (Indian) women’s team as a big powerhouse in Asia. Our goal is to be the best team in Asia. Playing the World Cup is a far-fetched goal at the moment. As a team, we need to grow a lot. We will be focussing to be among the top teams in Asia.”

“The main target is to do well on exposure tours, as you can see the team is playing in the COTIF Cup right now. The realistic target would be to give our best in the upcoming AFC (Women’s Championship) Qualifiers, so that we can pave our way to the world. I think we do have a better (than men’s) chance to make it to the World Cup.”


 


Talking about the importance of and preparations for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020 she said, “With an emphasis on the growth of Indian football, which is on the rise and The U-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled next year, it is very important for us to have tournaments attracting the youth. It’s these platforms which are breeding grounds for future stars.”

“Women’s football, in general, is a growing sport and jumping straight from the U-17 team to the national team won’t make any sense. Right now, there isn’t much buzz about the World Cup, but I believe by the end of this year, people are going to get excited.”

“One year is not enough to prepare for a World Cup, but I believe the AIFF is doing the best they can to build the team up. Everything happened quickly, the bid, the awarding of the hosting rights and now the federation is sending the team to the most number of exposure tours, getting playing time against competitive teams.”



Talking about her prospects of being a captain, she insisted that the armband does not hamper the interpersonal relationships of the players and that the squad as a whole are determined to take Indian women’s football higher up the ladder.