Indian national team defender Sweety Devi sat down with the AIFF TV for an Instagram live session. She spoke about her career as a footballer, the ongoing preparations for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and much more.
The 22 year old from Manipur made her debut for the national team back in 2017, during the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers against Korea, and has also represented the Blue Tigresses in various junior ranks. The two-time Indian Women’s League champion has also plied her trade for Eastern Sporting Union, Sethu FC, and KRYPHSA FC.
Sweety Devi retrospects, saying that her inspiration to pursue football was from her father, a football coach.
“When I was a child I never thought that I will play football and reach where I am now. Like every normal girl, I was into studies and wanted to be an engineer or a doctor. But my father asked me to play football and initially, I used to run away from it but my father used to take me to the ground.”
“My father knew that I didn’t have any interest in football, and when there used to be any tournaments, like the Manipur State League, he used to make me a ball boy, and I used to sit behind the goalkeeper so that I could watch the whole game. But looking back now, if he didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here now.”
Sweety Devi believes herself lucky for having her parents support her and gives full credit to her father. She also adds that parents should promote and encourage children to take up sports, which will also help them lead a fit and healthy life.
The national team has been having a lot of exposure tours recently, including stints in Sweden, the UAE, and Bahrain. The team played as many as six games outside India in October. Talking about the recent developments in women’s football and her experience, she exclaims, “The recent exposure tour has been productive in terms of learning. We went out of Asia and played with teams which we had never played against before. We started from UAE and went on to Sweden, and the intensity of the games increased.” Sweety Devi also scored a goal against UAE during the team’s exposure tour.
The 22-year-old also shares how they had to adapt to different weather conditions in UAE, which was hot and dry compared to Sweden, which was much colder than Turkey, where they had played before.
The senior national team will be flying over to Manaus in Brazil for an international tournament where they will face the host country, alongside Chile and Venezuela. The team will be battling off with higher-ranked teams at the end of this month. Talking about the upcoming fixtures, Sweety says that it will be challenging to face Brazilian striker Marta, “ It will be a challenge for me to play against Marta and defend her. I will try my best to do it well with the help of our coaches as well.“
She adds that the respect for the Brazilian team will be there, and the team will try to give their best against the Canarinhas.
“We need a strong mentality to play against Brazil, and it is not easy to play against them. The coaches, staff, and everyone else are helping us with the technical side; we as a team can do even the impossible. The team bonding which we have is quite good, and it will be an advantage when we play against Brazil .” Sweety Devi adds that such an opportunity to interact with Marta’s calibre player will not come twice.
The upcoming fixture in Brazil is historic for Indian football as no other senior or junior Indian team has ever gone to Brazil to play against them. Apart from the Selecaos, currently ranked 7th globally, Chile ( 37 ) and Venezuela ( 56 ) will also be a significant challenge for the Indian team. Sweety Devi says that it will be a big challenge as they will be facing superior teams in terms of ranking. Still, at the same time, it will be an excellent opportunity to represent Indian football overseas.
Blue Tigresses were on the move this year, upgrading their preparations for the much-awaited AFC WAC hosted by India next year. They have travelled to Turkey, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, and UAE, with Brazil as their next stop. They have been training under Swedish head coach Thomas Dennerby in Jharkhand. Talking about the pandemic and foreign assignments, she said-
“During the pandemic when we are at home, we missed football and were restricted to play in our rooms without going out. When the camp was announced, it was a positive relief for preparing and practise with the team. We want to thank the AIFF for arranging all the exposure tours, even in this situation.“
With just a few months left for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022, scheduled for 20th January to 6th February, the team is also likely to play a four-nation tournament in Kerala after the Brazil tour.
“It’s a big tournament for women’s football, and it’s happening in India. But due to the pandemic, fans can’t come and watch the matches in stadiums, even for us, we will miss playing in front of the crowd since it’s in India,” Sweety Devi exclaims on the prospect of playing in empty stadiums.
She also spoke about the strict diet, strength, and conditioning sessions that the team underwent as a part of the grooming and added that the team pushes each other every day to give their best in training. The Indian team is in Group A with the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
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