Kohima: With the international debut of the SC Nagaland U-15 girls’ football team, courtesy of the ongoing Gothia Cup in Sweden, women’s football in India has just got a big leg-up.
Despite two losses and a draw against top Swedish teams, the young players are winning hearts in the country with their determination and passion for the game.
For the girls who have never played any league matches before their international debut, as there are hardly any women football leagues in the remote Northeast state, their first-ever participation at Gothia Cup will undoubtedly be a turning point for them.
Speaking with EastMojo, youth resources and sports adviser Zale Neikha expressed that the level of football in Sweden is undoubtedly of a top level and they have visited a few clubs (football) there, including FC Rosengard, one of the top European clubs.
“Interacting with them and witnessing their matches, what I feel is that in Nagaland we need more community support,” he added.
Neikha further said that in Sweden, the community at large shares the same passion of promoting football .They reflect a collective mindset of football as being more than just a game.
Neikha, who is also in Sweden with the team, said that the girls from Nagaland are displaying a great performance (despite two losses and a draw), especially considering the fact that they have never played in a league match before. “And to be mentioned, the teams they are matched against are ranked among the world’s top 10,” he said.
Neikha positively noted that the girls are good in stamina and speed but the only thing that needs improvement is the real-time experience that can only be achieved with greater participation in leagues and longer professional training.
Even though with limited experience, team captain Imlimerenla and two others — Noke Konyak and Medokhono — have been identified by the Swedish nationals for their potential, if trained properly. In this regard, Neikha hinted that the girls may get an opportunity to be trained with Swedish clubs. The girls’ football team was also featured in a Swedish media platform, Svenska Dagbladet.
Optimistic that football is taking a giant leap in the state, Neikha said that with the right guidance, Naga football players (both boys and girls) can make a career out of the sport. “Our girls have definitely won the hearts of the public with their determination, skills and humble background,” he said.