Interview of Dalima Chhibber , Defender Indian National Women’s Team

The Indian Women’s team ranked 56th in the world notched up their 4th consecutive SAFF Championship beating Bangladesh in the final. They are currently playing the Asian Cup qualifiers and will be hoping to secure a berth in the biggest continental competition for the first time since 2003.

We spoke to one of the rising starts in the national women’s team, Dalima Chhibber who speaks to us about the level of women’s football in India and how the Indian Women’s League will go a long way in developing women’s football in the country.

The Interview

FPAI : How did you start playing football?

DC : My father is my coach, when I was about 7-8 years old I used to tag along with him on the field. Although I initially started with athletics, in my father’s football academy I used to watch guys play, it fascinated me and I tried that sport and gradually I started loving it. When I was 13 I played for the U-14 Indian football girls team and after that there was no looking back, all I wanted to do was keep getting better in that sport and play for the senior team and last year in the South Asian games where the Indian team won the gold medal, I made my debut for the senior team in the opening match against Maldives.

FPAI : This is the first time that the Federation has organized a national level professional tournament for women in India. Thoughts on that. How was the experience ?

DC : I think it is a very good step forward in order to provide the women footballers and the upcoming footballers a platform. This would also help to get new and young talent to the national team. The women football would also grow and improve in the future. It will also provide an opportunity for the national team players to share their experience with the upcoming players.

FPAI : How do you think the league can be improved in the coming years?

DC : The league was well organized, and when it will happen every year, it will eventually grow into a bigger league. Although the crowds turn out to watch the league was pretty less, I think publicizing the women’s league would be of great help in order to pull to crowd and also spread the awareness regarding women’s football. Ultimately there will be more clubs joining the league in future, the league will definitely grow.

FPAI : The Indian team has been dominating the SAFF championship but has not really been building on that success in the continental level. Your thoughts.

DC : I do not really think so, the level of Indian Women football is growing. The teams even in the SAFF region have become much better and we still manage to retain the championship, which shows that the Indian football is at rise and will gradually be better than many even in the Asian region especially with the Indian Women’s League that has come up. I think with a lit bit of exposure we will be doing much better in the continental level too.

FPAI : You are still a student, how do you balance your studies and football?

DC : Managing studies with football has never been a problem; all you need to do is manage time properly. Since I was a kid my studies were looked after by my mother and my sports by my father. When I was in my 12th standard I had gone for my U-19 India camp in which I captained the Indian team, and I was back in November when my pre-boards were on. Out of 24 hours I used to play for 2 hours and rest of the 22 hours I used to rest, sleep and study. That is how I managed time, and scored a 92.27% in my board. There has been this stereotype that sportspeople don’t study, I wanted to break that and anybody can do that if they are able to manage time well.

FPAI : As a woman footballer opportunities are limited in India. Do you feel that girl footballers taking up the game have a secure future?

DC : Football as a women sport doesn’t hold a long history in India, it is an upcoming sport. There weren’t as many opportunities as there are now. The sport has definitely grown and is still growing in the country with Indian Women’s League, the national league for women football players. Women will be able to see a secure future in this sport as this league would not only provide a platform but would also provide the women football players with a certain earning and also recognition.

FPAI : Which footballer do you idolize?

Since I’ve started playing I have always idolized Ronaldinho but currently I have been following Lionel Messi.

FPAI : Where do you see yourself as a footballer 2 years from now?

DC : Football has become an integral part of my life now, when I am out there playing football I am a happy girl and it has always been a priority. In future I have plans of going abroad to play as well as completing my post graduation.