Shillong: Indian women’s football team captain Oinam Bembem Devi, who on Thursday announced that the 12th South Asian Games (SAG) in India will be her last tournament, is hopeful of retaining the top spot in the competition. The competition begins on Friday and will be hosted by Shillong and Guwahati.
“I have been playing football for the last 21 years, and I have finally decided to hang up my football boots after the 12th South Asian Games here in Shillong, and this is the right time for me,” Bembem told IANS. However, the Manipuri spinster, 35, has no plans of tying a knot with anyone, as her aim is to first engage herself in the development of women’s football in the country.
“My goal now is to promote football, especially women’s football in India. I will be devoting most of my time to train junior footballers in my home state of Manipur so that they can represent India at the national and international competitions,” Bembem said.
Asked if she plans to get married after hanging up her football boots, the central midfielder said, “I have decided not to get married but decided to sacrifice my life for football. I eat, sleep and drink football, and my goal now is to train young bloods and promote football to represent India.”
Bembem has been part of national championship-winning sides on 16 occasions with Manipur, nine times as the captain. She led the country to two South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) titles, said women’s football in the country has improved with the AIFF-FIFA grassroots programme across various states.
“The grassroots programme for women is very strong in Manipur. In almost all the districts in Manipur you will find young boys and girls at tender age are being train for the Under-13 and Under-14 Teams. Therefore, I am not losing hope with the performance of the Indian football in the years to come,” She said.
Asked her message for the aspiring players, Bembem said, “If you love the game of football, go for it. Don’t be negative. I try to guide them on and off the field. They respect me a lot and that makes me more responsible.”
Indian women’s football team coach, Sajid Yosuf Dar also described Bembem as an inspirational figure. “She has always been special and tactical player and according to me, she is one of legendary footballers who has taken India to new heights in women’s football,” Dar said reacting to Bembem’s retirement.