INDIAN NATIONAL TEAM and Hamar Hveragerði goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan opened up about the struggles she went through while playing for West Ham United when she got injured.
Speaking at an International Youth Day virtual conference organized by ISL franchise Hyderabad FC in collaboration with the NGO 'Enabling Leadership,' she talked about the ACL injury that put her out for months and practically ended her spell at the English club,
"I had everything planned. As a player when you are getting an opportunity, you feel like now you'll give your 100%, everything will be sorted and everything will be sorted. You'll have a lot of options and opportunities and everything will be sorted... unfortunately in my second season at West Ham I injured my ACL... basically for 9 months or a year you are out. And back home there was no structure. So I had two options. I could either crib about it and be sad... one of the thoughts was that this could be the end of my playing career. But that was not in my control. The only thing in my control was to come out of it... however I can."
When she returned to India in early 2018, the harsh realities of women's football in India hit her hard. Even though she had been playing for the national team for years, and won multiple trophies with the Blue Tigresses, recovery was a lonely experience with little support structure. For her, it was a realisation of how difficult it was for girls to become professional footballers, and what she could do about it,
"There isn't a very structured pathway for the girls to play football, to take it up as a profession. It's unfortunate that it's still not existing in India. We still don't have a fully professional environment where a girl can take up football as a profession or as a career... while doing my rehab, I came up with the concept for She Kicks. The idea was, whatever I was missing while growing up - no structure, no platform for girls - I thought, you know, this is probably one of my responsibilities; to provide that in whatever small capacity I can, to the young girls, young kids of the future. To help them with the knowledge I have gained through all the experiences, and make it a little bit easier for the girls in future."
However, when it comes to the future of women's football, Aditi sounded hopeful that meaningful changes were occuring,
"I'm positive. I know there are big events lined up for India, for the national team. We also have the professional league now slowly shaping up. So there is a structure coming in play. So obviously a lot of work needs to be done and that work needs to come in from all of us, you know. All the members of this ecosystem... we can't just sit back and think it's AIFF's duty, that they will have to set up the league and they will have to make this environment and structure. Everyone has to contribute, including ISL clubs like Hyderabad FC."
Aditi also took up the issue of Hyderabad FC's involvement in Indian football with the club's technical director Thangboi Singto. Responding to her, Singto revealed something that would mark a significant development in Indian women's football,
"Hyderabad FC is a new club but the intention has always been there. But first we thought, maybe we should structurize our youth system... it's not like we are bypassing or not interested in girls' football, but due to this pandemic over the last two years, it has really hit us. We could not even establish ourselves in Hyderabad because we had to stay in Goa and this year we have to do be based in Goa due to the pandemic... definitely we have some plans. Definitely, in the near future, we will have a women's football team. Definitely."
If Hyderabad FC manage to pull this off in time they may become the third major club in the country - after FC Pune City and Gokulam Kerala FC - to have a women's team playing in the Indian Women's League.
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