The ‘Durga of Indian Football’, Oinam Bembem Devi became the first Indian woman footballer and the seventh overall to be named a Padma Shri. The Awards will be conferred by the President of India at ceremonial functions which are held at Rashtrapati Bhawan in March/April every year.
All India Football Federation president Praful Patel in his statement said, “Congratulations! None deserve it more than Bembem Devi. She has been a role model for Indian Football and won so many laurels for India over the years. I hope more girls draw inspiration from her and take Indian Women’s Football to greater heights.”
All India Football Federation general secretary Kushal Das in his statement said, “Bembem is a living legend and has been the flagbearer of Indian Women’s football over the years. This is the year of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup which we are hosting, and I feel it will provide the necessary fillip to inspire the next generation, and generate interest among all stakeholders. Congratulations!”
Mr. Das also made a mention of Bembem’s contribution to the sport as a coach after hanging her boots. “Post-retirement Bembem has been transferring her knowledge as a Coach, having been a part of Indian National age-group teams, and also as the club level. I wish her all the best for her professional and personal life.”
In the process, Bembem joins the elite club of late Gostho Paul, late Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami, P.K. Banerjee, Bhaichung Bhutia and current Indian Men’s National Team captain Sunil Chhetri as Indian Footballers who won the prestigious Padma Shri Award.
Sunil Chhetri won the award last year in 2019.