New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS): The Indian women's football team has moved forward together, with an influx of youngsters coming in from the U-17 and the U-19 sides in recent years. Those that have come in from the junior teams of the yesteryears -- like wing-back Dalima Chhibber, have now begun to take leadership roles in this young squad.
The 24-year-old on Sunday said the influx of youngsters in the National Team has made the rest more responsible athletes. "I was one of the youngsters before, looking up to the other players. Now, there are so many youngsters who have come in from the U-17 and U-19 squads, and they look up to us," said Dalima.
"That has changed the approach a bit. With the new players coming in, the responsibility falls on us to make them comfortable. But other than that, it's still the same."
With less than two weeks left for the AFC Asian Cup to kick-off, the players in the Blue Tigresses' camp are as excited as ever, to get the ball rolling on January 20, when they face off against IR Iran.
"We've been preparing for a while now, and we have all been together for six months with a number of exposure matches. We've had some good wins, and we have had a few losses as well," Dalima expressed. "But the most important thing is that we have learnt a lot. We are all excited, and can't wait to get going."
The Indian Women's Team has played in six different countries in 2021, in the lead up to the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022, and Dalima believes that the experience earned, especially in places like Sweden and Brazil was immense.
"A lot has changed, especially the number of exposure matches that we have been playing in Brazil, Sweden, Turkey, and so on. Brazil was a big learning curve for us, to see the hub of football culture and to understand what football really means to everyone there," she said.
Head coach Thomas Dennerby had taken over the senior team in August and brings in the experience of coaching in Sweden, and Nigeria as well.
"I think the coach has given us a lot of confidence. He gives us a pep talk before every game, and he tells us how we are all capable, and how much he and the staff believe in us all. For me, personally, that gives a lot of confidence to fight it out," she informed.
"He has brought in a mental toughness in the squad -- whether it's chanting, whether it's running, whether it's conditioning, whether it's speed, whether it's the technical aspect, or it's a tactical aspect. We've been able to focus on every part of the game in detail. We've been able to highlight that we've been able to improve. We've been able to come together as a team, and improve our games building up to the Asian Cup."
"The dream for us is to reach the FIFA World Cup. So when we went to Brazil to play against Brazil, it was a dream come true. But like going to Brazil playing against those teams was the start of a dream because we know where we have to be," she stated.
"And that was just like a stepping stone. We realised what world football is like, and what kind of football the teams that are at the top level who play in the World Cup and Olympics play. So for us, it was a very big learning curve."