India may have been ruled out of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 but the passion to play football has been enriched in every Indian girl who was seen in action at Bhubaneswar last week.
Captain of India Under -17 Women’s National Team, Astam Oraon in a candid chat with www.the-aiff.com opened up about India’s campaign, emotions playing in a World Cup, thoughts on rivals, the road ahead and much more. EXCERPTS:
Q: How was the experience playing in a world cup?
Astam: We all had a very good learning experience in the World Cup. Even though we lost all our matches, we got huge learning out of it — everyone will utilise our mistakes if we don’t rectify them.
We got to play against such strong teams like USA, Brazil. We fought till the end and got to know about our weaknesses and how to improve further. Morocco is also a good team, and playing against them was an eye opener– we came to know what level we are up to. The only thing which is important now is how to prepare ourselves to play good games against such opponents.
Q: As a captain, your thoughts on the team?
Astam: Whatever the result was, I am very happy and pleased that my team played with a fighting spirit. As much as we learned in the last eight months, we have put all our efforts into every game we played.
Q: What changes do you see in the team now compared to when you started training?
Astam: The major change that I saw was our team bonding which became very strong at the end. We have been training for the past eight months, and whatever we have trained we tried to follow in our matches. We also were able to follow the discipline within the team which is very important – it’s great our team has a very good bonding and trust in each other.
Q. So are you satisfied with the improvement of the team from game to game?
Astam: Yes, when we played the first match, we knew we were nervous about taking on USA. We were all disappointed by the loss, but we got to know what we have to work on, and what we can go ahead with. We tried to play our best in the second and kept fighting. We were defeated in our last match as well but we tried to defend a lot. With each passing game, we got to know what we should focus more on.
In our matches, we saw that we were not that technically good but we have become better physically and have improved in our endurance level. which is not enough. Football is also a technical game and we accept to work hard on other areas in the upcoming days.
Q: What according to you were the strongest areas of your rivals?
Astam: Every team we played against were fast and they had strong physiques. The finishing area was also very good – even the tackles they made. We would want to become like them and display much more strong performance.
Q: Now, the U-17 World Cup is probably over for us but a lot of young girls have watched the game. Do you think it will have an impact on them?
Astam: The campaign may be over for us, but our passion to play football is not over. Our football journey has just begun and I ask other girls as well as their parents to give them the freedom to play football, or whatever sport they like. Parents’ support is very important for any child to grow and fulfill their dreams.
Our results may be not as expected but everyone could see the fight we gave in. I urge every parent and girl just not to see the results but also to believe in the hard work we have put in. I hope many girls will play the sport and try to fight in the long run to grow women’s football in India.
Q. Any message to the fans who came to support you?
Astam: To everyone that came to support us, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. They took out their time to come and support us. The fans in the stadiums as well as whoever watched us through broadcast — their support matters a lot to us and to Indian Football. It was really important for each one of us, so thank you so much.