It’s day six in Brazil, and the Indian Women’s Team is still smarting from a historic match where they had the chance to bid adieu, up close and personal, to one of the greatest footballers that the beautiful game has ever seen – Formiga Mota.
“In such matches the tactical aptitude and the attitude that we show on the pitch stay pertinent,” captain Ashalata opined. “After the match we met Formiga and Marta, and they advised us on a lot of aspects. They praised us for our hard work on the pitch, and hoped that our work ethic never changes. That was really special to hear from two players who we have all been looking up to, in the past.”
After the match, Marta Vieira da Silva expressed her interest in the Indian Women’s Team, stating that she would like to see the side grow further.
“What I see is that you guys have the opportunity to grow further, and then you need to keep working harder. I hope to see you guys next time, and maybe play against India next time too,” said Marta.
Amidst all the fanfare, the Indian Women’s Team sent the thoughts of all the dreamers of Indian Football flying on the eighth minute, when goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan punched away a cross by the opposition, before the midfielder Indumathi Kathiresan latched on to the ball, lobbed it to lone striker Pyari Xaxa, who duly cushioned her header into the path of Manisha, as the left forward soared up the wing, entered the box, and unleashed a left-footer that nestled into the net.
“I couldn’t believe it. When you’re out there on the pitch you generally play moment-by-moment. You can’t plan too far ahead. Of course, we had our plans as to how we would play against them, and how to defend against them, but in that very instant, when the Brazil attackers had converged on our penalty area, all I was thinking of was finding one outlet, where I could play it out to,” explained Indumathi.
“That would give us time to reorganise the defence. I saw Pyari standing near the half-line alone, and lobbed it to her. She was not in that great a position, to be honest, and I thought that the Brazilians would come back to attack us in a few seconds again. But then she showed great awareness to find Manisha with her first touch and the rest is history,” she smiled.
The lady who got the assist due to sheer awareness, however, put it entirely down to the goalscorer Manisha for making a great off-the-ball run and giving her teammate a good old-fashioned shout.
“At that moment, you don’t really think much about it. I saw Indumathi chip the ball towards me, and I was completely surrounded by four defenders. I knew that by the time I would control the ball and try to dribble, they would have it again,” recalled Pyari. “At the same time, Manisha gave a shout, and she had taken up a very nice position where I could easily pass it to. I headed it towards her and tried to make my own run into the box. Little did I know at that moment that she would create such a magical moment.”
Pyari exclaimed, “Even after she scored, it took a few seconds for it to register in our heads. Yes, we had conceded early on, but we had just scored – AGAINST BRAZIL!”
Earlier, some players had even done their customary pre-match pitch walk bare-footed, in order to get a better feel of the turf. Fullback Ranjana Chanu was seen doing a couple of back-flips, drawing cheers from a crowd that had come to watch the legendary Formiga for one last time.
“It was a surreal experience. Even before the match, the way the crowd cheered – they may not have been cheering for us – most of the cheers were for Formiga and Brazil, but still it felt great to play there,” said captain Ashalata Devi, recalling the magical night.
However, the team did not have much time to dwell on the match, once it was over. As the Organisers wrapped up the post-match felicitations of Formiga, the focus for the Indian girls shifted to the future.
The work ethic, indeed, has not changed one bit, as the team straight away went into a recovery session the next morning, followed by another rigorous training session in the evening.
“We can’t sit back and rest during the Brazil game. That is in the past now. The Chile game is next, and that’s where our focus is at the present moment,” the captain averred.
The Indian Women’s Team plays its next match in the Torneio Internacional de Futebol Feminino against Chile, which is set to kick off at 2.30 AM IST on Monday, November 29, at the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, Brazil.
The match will be streamed live on the Indian Football Team Facebook page and the Indian Football YouTube channel.