With an eye on the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 which will be held in India, head coach Maymol Rocky has been busy enacting her plan of integrating promising young talent with experienced heads in the squad.
And, two players who embody this plan perfectly are midfielder Sangita Basfore, who captained the side in the three friendlies in Turkey, and youngster Martina Thokchom, who has been brought into the senior side from the U-17 Women’s Team.
Martina credits the seniors for helping her feel like a ‘part of the team’, “When I first joined, I was quite nervous, but they (seniors) welcomed me nicely and made me feel comfortable. Helped with everything both on the field and off it which helped me feel like a part of the team.
“I miss my U-17 teammates a lot but here everyone is elder to me so I get to learn from their experience,” says the youngster from Manipur.
With the exuberance of youth, Martina says she is very much looking forward to a “challenging” encounter against a higher-ranked opponent, “Uzbekistan is a higher-ranked country (41 in the most recent FIFA rankings) and we’re going to play in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup next year so this friendly is very important. This match is going to be very challenging for us. We can use this as good preparation.”
Meanwhile Sangita, now an experienced player within the squad is grateful for these opportunities in the midst of a pandemic, “Initially we had issues because in lockdown we practised individually and when we came together, it was tough to understand each other, but slowly we bonded together as a team and developed a sense of unity. I need to thank the authorities for giving us these opportunities to train even in these times.”
The midfielder was named captain for the three friendlies in Turkey against quality opposition like Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine and it is a role she hopes to fulfil even without the armband in the future, “I was a junior when I entered the National Team. I used to watch and follow everything that the senior players did and didn’t do, learning from them about what I needed to do both on the field and off the field. Then slowly I evolved into a senior player and even got the captaincy in Turkey.”
The midfield general from West Bengal was also all praise for the crop of youngsters entering the senior team fold, “I’m feeling good because young players are coming into the team. It’s easy for us to develop an understanding with them. And they are technically well-equipped on the field because they’ve played so many exposure matches. The team is looking more dynamic and energetic with them.”