In Bimal Roy’s 1958 Bollywood blockbuster ‘Madhumati’, the main character of the film is often described as a young girl who is innocent and full of warmth, but cannot be tamed.
Looking at Madhumathi R, a promising midfielder from Tamil Nadu, currently in the India U-20 Women’s National camp for the upcoming SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship in Dhaka, Bangladesh from February 3-9, 2023, one may get a similar feeling – a quiet rebel, who can never be stopped from reaching her goal.
Madhumathi R is only 18 but has already gone through many ups and downs while pursuing her passion for football. Her sheer love for the game is clearly visible in her eyes whenever she speaks about it.
Madhumathi is a cheerful girl from Neyveli, Tamil Nadu, who has come to the National camp with big hopes and plans for her future. She started playing football at the age of eight and soon found herself bunking classes to spend more time on the field. It did land her in trouble, both with the school authorities and her parents. While her father didn’t stop Madhumathi from playing, her mother wasn’t convinced easily.
Yet, Madhumathi couldn’t be dissuaded from going to the ground every day. She impressed the selectors in the State league and finally received a call for the U-17 National camp for the Women’s U-17 World Cup. The midfielder got selected for the camp back in 2021 but unfortunately missed out when the final list of 23 was announced. She was indeed disappointed but recovered quickly and returned to the pitch a more determined person. Her passion and love for football despite the initial struggle and setback is what makes her special.
“I used to bunk classes since I always wanted to play football with the boys in the school. It was great fun. I enjoyed doing so. My mother was very strict because she was concerned about me getting injured, but later relented as she understood my love for football,” said Madhumathi.
“When I got selected in my first ever coaching camp in Maharashtra, I got very emotional and told my parents that the day is not far when I will be in the National camp as well. And after a year, I got called up for the U-17 World Cup camp, but somehow, I couldn’t make the cut for the final team. I was heartbroken – but that did not stop me from playing football,” she added.
Madhumathi is currently a first-year college student and a far more mature person. She now makes every effort to balance her studies and football. Her father is a daily wager, and her mother is a housewife. Currently, her sister is also an earning member of the family. Yet, it is not always easy for her family to support her dream of playing football. Madhumathi, however, is not ready to give up.
“If I had the option to choose either studies or football, I would have easily chosen football any day,” she said with a smile.
Madhumathi is an avid follower of two of her seniors from Tamil Nadu – Indumathi Kathiresan and Karthika Angamuthu from the Senior Women’s National team. The opportunity to train with the seniors in the current National camp is the cherry on the cake for her. She isn’t too proficient in any other language except in her mother tongue, Tamil, but the language has never been a barrier on the pitch for her.
“I feel special that the camp is happening in my state, and being the only one from Tamil Nadu among the probables is something I can be proud of. I ardently follow Karthika didi and Indumathi didi. I have seen their game, and I try to learn from the way they tackle, shoot and pass the ball. They are so calm with the ball, and that is one of the most important things I try to emulate.
“As a player, I have improved my speed and strength, and now I am trying to focus more on the basics. The SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship is a very important tournament for us, and we as a team are working hard to lift the trophy and make our nation proud,” concluded Madhumathi.
The success of the Indian Women’s Team is high on the Federation’s list of priorities, and as per the objectives in Vision 2047, they have begun the process of maximising the International windows in order for our players to play more competitive matches. The Senior and U-20 Women’s National Teams are currently in camp in Chennai, where AIFF Media is also present, delivering a series of stories about the best women footballers from our land.