Respect and courage are perhaps the two qualities that take footballers a long way in their rather short careers. These two qualities are very much personified in the India U-20 Women’s National Team, who have been playing together for around half a decade now.
“We respect everyone, but fear none!”
These are words that are often heard escaping the vocal chords of Thomas Dennerby, who has been working with this batch of players since 2019. In a way, that ideology has become ingrained in the girls. It has, in fact, become second nature for the players in this team to stay upbeat leading into any match.
Much like the famous Brazilian teams of the past, this group of players sing, dance and make merry while on the way to the ground for any match. The festive mood begins before leaving for the match, and lasts till the players get to the dressing room. However, this festive atmosphere quickly transitions to one of pin-drop silence once it’s time for the coach to give the pre-match pep talk. Regardless of the opponents – be it against South Asian teams, or top teams like USA or Brazil in the U-17 World Cup – it is a ritual that the team has developed, and one that removes any pre-match jitters from the players.
Having been together as a team for a long time (give or take a few players), the India U-20 Women’s Team are now in Dhaka, Bangladesh to play the SAFF U-20 Women’s Championship, one that they are determined to win. Of course, the last time this group of players assembled was during the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, an experience that has surely left it’s mark on them.
India open their campaign against Bhutan at the Bir Sherestha Shaheed Shipahi Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Dhaka at 2.30pm IST on Friday, February 3, 2023. Following that, they are set to play hosts Bangladesh on February 5 (6.30pm IST), and Nepal on February 7 (2.30pm IST).
“From what I’ve seen so far in training, I think they are honestly taking another step forward. That comes from the experience of the U-17 World Cup. Even if the World Cup campaign was not a success for us in terms of results, we gained considerably in terms of experience and learning by playing at the highest level,” said Dennerby who was the Head Coach of the team during the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and is now in charge of the Senior Women’s Team. “My feeling is that the girls look much more comfortable now and are not as stressed as they used to be before when they played big tournaments. It is of great help to Indian Football.”
Maymol Rocky, who is currently serving the dual role as the Head Coach of the U-20 side and the Assistant Coach of the Senior Team, echoed Dennerby’s words.
“I’ll say that we respect all our opponents. After all, Bangladesh are the hosts, and they should be a strong side. Nepal and Bhutan must be preparing hard, and we have respect for them. But on matchday, we will go all out and give our best – it doesn’t matter who the rivals are,” she said. “Women’s football in India has grown a lot since I was part of the national team as a player and when I became a coach. There are a lot of things happening, and it’s going to be a big step ahead for the women’s game.”
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.