Gokulam Kerala FC striker Manisha, who has been turning heads with her performances in the ongoing season of the India Women’s League believes India hosting the 2020 U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup would “help young girls from Punjab take up the sport”.
Manisha may be banging in the goals from the front, but she was not always a striker. Back in the days when she played in the India U-17 team, she used to play as a left winger.
In the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship qualifiers, she played as an attacking midfielder, while Senior National Team coach Maymol Rocky promoted her to the position of a striker in recent times.
“When I’m on the left, I always try to go back and help my win back, and then run forward to attack once we get the ball,” she said. “When I play in the midfield, I always need to keep the position of the opposition midfielders in mind. Especially when we don’t have the ball, I have to keep tracking them.”
“Playing striker is much simpler – make the runs, get to the ball, and shoot properly. The main aim is to score the goals,” she smiled.
India recently won the bid to host the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup which is to be held next year. But while the likes of Manisha will not fall within the age-group that will be eligible for the India squad next year, the 17-year-old believes that the tournament can help popularise women’s football immensely.
“It’s great that the U-17 World Cup is happening in India. People will see the World Cup, and motivate their kids, especially little girls to play football,” said Manisha. “I really hope that people in Punjab watch the U-17 World Cup, and get inspired to let the young girls go out, and play football.”
The 17-year-old has scored four goals from two games so far, and played a crucial role in both her team’s wins in the IWL.
“It feels great that the IWL is being held in Punjab. This will help raise awareness about women’s football in the state. The young girls in Punjab can watch the matches and learn more about the game,” said Manisha.
However, the teenaged striker has her feet firmly on the ground. Despite the flurry of goals, the fact that her team has been picking up three points every game is more important to her than everything else.
“The fact that I have also been able to score when the team needed me, makes me happy. That is the most important thing for any player – to help the team win,” she said.