IFTWC got an opportunity to interview Kunashni Parikh. She is an Ex-India Footballer as she was the Vice-Captain and Goalkeeper for the Junior India Team and played as the Goalkeeper for the Vancouver United Football Club in Canada. She now works as a Sports Psychologist to help Athletes boost their Performance through Mental Training.
1) Tell us about your footballing journey? How and when did you start playing football?
My journey began very early at the age of 12 when I was playing football for my school team. The first thing I remember is I wanted to be a goalkeeper, be in the goal. My coach wanted to make me a defender because I was a little tough that time and I could defend. But I just wanted to be in goal and dive for any ball that would come. So my journey started from wanting to just push the ball and dive for the ball outside the goal. That’s how it started.
Soon in a few years, I saw myself playing the nationals as a goalkeeper for the Maharashtra team. Then one day I got selected to come to the India camp. I remember one of the matches that we played. Maharashtra as you know is not so strong compared to other states when it comes to football. So when our team went there we were losing 10-0, 12-0 against stronger teams like Manipur, Tamil Nadu, etc.
I remember the matches we played. There were at least 50 shots on target out of which I had pushed about 30-40 shots out of the D. We lost the match 10-0 but that was a memorable national match in terms of my performance and saving so many shots. The next day I remember I got a call saying that we want you to come for the national team. I was the only player from Maharashtra out of the 40 girls who were trying to get into the national team. This was at the U-16 level and I was playing for the u-16 team. So that was a great opportunity for me.
2) When did you get selected for the age group Football team? How was the feeling of being selected and representing your country, India?
It was in 2010 when I got selected for the u-16 team. It is a feeling which you can’t really explain in words. It is an emotion, playing for India. It’s a great emotion when you are given the national team jersey and they tell you that you have made it to the team. You have tears in your eyes, you don’t know what to say. You just feel like picking up your phone and calling your parents, your friends, and everyone else, and telling them that it happened.
It was quite unbelievable for me. I didn’t expect that I would make it to the team that time especially because there is so much competition. When I started there were 10 goalkeepers and then it came to top 2, top 3. So putting all your hard work in there and watching people get cut out, weeks after weeks it keeps getting fewer numbers. When they make the final list and you see your name up there it feels like you are living a dream. It’s only the first part.
The second part is when you are given the jersey and you see your name written there besides India, you have to open and close your eyes 5 times to make sure that it is actually true. The third awesome part is when you are up there playing. Especially abroad when they are calling your name in the foreign language, the coach name. It’s a totally different experience and it’s something that you can’t describe in words. You have to be there and feel the crazy amount of emotion when you and not playing for one team or one set of jersey color. It’s the whole nation behind you. I just feel that the sportspersons have this special feeling of patriotism that comes up when you step out there.