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India Women’s Pyari Xaxa: Nepal draw was tough but we will bounce back!

The Indian senior women’s team kicked off its campaign at the 2020 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a draw against Nepal on Thursday, November 8, with the squad consisting of a number of young players who were playing at this quadrennial event for the first time.

However, a handful of members were in the team when it competed for a spot at the Rio Olympics – one of them being 21-year-old Pyari Xaxa. “The four years with the team have been really nice so far,” she told AIFF Media in an exclusive chat, before adding, “At that time (2016 Olympic qualifiers), I was a substitute player. This time around, however, I am in the playing XI.”

Her journey to the senior national team began in a village named Jhartarang in the Sundergarh district in Odisha, where Pyari took to the beautiful game at the age of 11.

“I secretly played with boys as my parents objected. However, an uncle of mine helped me convince my parents and encouraged me to grow as a player. After that, I could practice regularly with the boys and after a while, a coach spotted me and helped me join a local club, from where I continued my journey,” said Pyari.

She usually plays as a striker but for the Olympic qualifiers and the challenges that lie ahead, she has been converted to a left-back by coach Maymol Rocky, given the player’s speed, tackling and crossing abilities.

“Our coach asked me to play as a defender and so far, I feel I have a lot to learn. I am still working on my defensive skills,” said Pyari. When asked whether she misses finding the back of the net, she stated, “Scoring goals is a great feeling but my job is to the support the team and play wherever the coach needs me to.”

Talking about the stalemate against Nepal, the 21-year-old was not too happy about the way things panned out. “On a personal note, I felt that I did not play to the best of my abilities. If I am given a chance in the starting XI in the next match, I am sure that I will go out and give my 100 per cent,” she said.

“The draw felt like a loss to us,” reflected Pyari. “However, it is good that we drew as it will serve as a warning for us and we will fight harder in the next match. What’s gone is gone and in the next match, we will give our best to win the crucial three points.”

The Indian team will take on Bangladesh in their next match, which will be held at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon on Sunday, November 11 at 2pm IST.

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