Hope FIFA WC atmosphere can somehow be translated into India, our goal is to qualify for Paris Olympics: Ashalata Devi

by IANS |

New Delhi, Dec 28 (IANS) India women's football team skipper Loitongbam Ashalata Devi is currently on cloud nine, and the reason is she just lived one of her dreams.

Devi, also the captain of the Indian Women's League side Gokulam Kerala, is considered one of the finest defenders in Asia. The 29-year-old has recently witnessed one of the greatest FIFA World Cup finals live at the stadium in Doha.

Speaking to IANS, she shared her experience in Qatar and how was her interaction with Morocco's star Achraf Hakimi.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: How was your experience at the FIFA World Cup?

A: I cannot explain it in words, it is something that everyone should experience. It is unreal and it was one of my dreams which has come true. Ever since I started watching football, it was my dream to watch a World cup final. The atmosphere was fantastic, I have never experienced something like this ever before.

Seeing Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe playing so up close was out of this world. There is so much that I learned just by watching them and that is something that I would like to add to my game. This also has to be one of the best football matches I have ever seen.

I hope that this atmosphere can somehow be translated into India also when we take the field. Football as a whole has a lot of scope to grow in India. I would like to thank Adidas and Abhishek Sharma's 'Athletes Today' for fulfilling one of my dreams.

Q: How was your interaction with Morocco's star Achraf Hakimi?

A: Achraf Hakimi is a great player; I have been watching him and tracking his style of game for a long time now. His control, skills, the way he controls himself on and off the field is something I wish to imbibe in myself. Morocco had a dream run in the world cup and played as a unit, my interaction with him was in-depth and I learnt so many things from him. He had some great advice for me.

Q: You also met Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, how was that experience?

A: It was great meeting them, Ranveer, Deepika and I are all brand ambassadors for Adidas, we met each other during the world cup finals and had a great chat with them. They were very keen to listen to the growth of Indian football. I have been a huge fan of their acting talent and I was surprised they knew so much about me. It was great fun watching the finals with them.

Q: What is your upcoming schedule?

A: Right now, the focus is shifted to the Indian Women's League where I play for Gokulam Kerala FC. We go into the tournament as defending champions and hope to retain our title. We are a great bunch of players at Gokulam Kerala FC and have been playing really well.

The owners, coaches, staff all are great and really supportive which helps us grow. We were also very close to playing the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tournament and becoming the first women's team to have done that from India but due to unforeseen circumstances that dream couldn't be realized. We will work hard and make sure that this time the dream becomes a reality.

Q: Olympic Qualifiers are also around the corner. How is the preparation going for that?

A: The Tokyo Olympics was a heartbreak for us, as we lost on the berth to qualify for the third round of the 2020 Olympic qualifiers on goal difference after being held to a 3-3 draw by Myanmar. This time around we do not want to leave it to the last game and are training hard. The goal is to qualify for the Paris Olympics, the entire team is motivated and will put all their efforts to achieve it.

Q: You recently signed up with Athletes Today as an exclusive management agency, what role do you think a professional agency plays in the life of a sportsperson?

A: Yes, I have signed with Abhishek Sharma's 'Athletes Today'. They are a great management agency, and it is because of them and Adidas that I got an opportunity to watch the World Cup 3rd place and finals live. I cannot thank them enough, as an agency they understand the dynamics of the players needs and not only that, but they also make your dreams come true.

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