As Indian football continues to move forward together, a key aspect of the game's growth in the country has been the continuous development of women's football, right from the grassroots level through the Golden Baby Leagues to the senior national women's team.
With the nation observing the National Girl Child Day on January 24, the country's biggest women football stars speak about the importance of young girls gaining more opportunities to play and how playing sport can help bring the best out of every girl child.
Indian women's national team captain Ashalata Devi shared her own experience of how she overcame opposition from her own family when she started playing football and how she doesn't want any girl to face the same situations that she did.
She said, "When I started playing football, there were a lot of struggles that I faced because my mother did not support me playing the sport. Whenever I used to come back home after practice, I would get beaten up and she used to ask me why I wanted to play and say that this is not a game for women, you will get injured and then you will not get married. She was very scared."
"Sports and studies can be balanced together and for that, support from parents is very important, added Ashalata".
Mercurial forward Bala Devi, talked about how she developed a passion for the game and how she hopes to inspire the next generation of women players through her journey.
"I used to play with boys in my locality as a child and there were many who did not like me playing and asked my parents to stop me. However, my father himself was a footballer and a striker too, and he never stopped me. He taught me a lot and told me to always keep football in my mind and even sleep with a ball in my hand. That’s how I developed the passion I have for the game," said Bala, the first Indian women to sign a professional contract in Europe. She went on to add, " It is really a proud moment and I want all the girls to be inspired".
"Football has totally transformed my personality and taught me to be strong, not be afraid and not hold back from expressing my opinions," said the national keeper Aditi Chauhan.
Emphasising on the important role of the parents, Aditi stated, "with so much of opening out there parents should support is something that is so important. And this beautiful game can bring the best out of a girl and build a competitive spirit."