YUMNAM KAMALA DEVI HAS announced her retirement from professional football earlier this afternoon.
Kamala, a fan favourite in Indian women's football, has been active in the sport for almost two decades. Ever since she emerged as the top scorer at the U-17 National Championship in 2006, she was marked as one of the top prospects in the country.
Hailing from a town near Imphal, manipur, she started playing football seriously at an early age and secured a scholarship from her school to pursue the sport. Playing both as an attacking midfielder and a striker, her versatile presence on the pitch soon got her into junior and senior state teams.
In 2010, she broke into the senior national team and immediately made a splash internationally, playing a crucial role in helping India win the SAFF Women's Championship in 2012. She was also consistently making her mark in domestic football, playing for Railways in the Senior Women's National Championship where she was judged to be the best player of the tournament in 2016. When Indian Women's League started in 2017, she became the top scorer of the compettion, helping her club Eastern Sporting Union make history becoming the first ever Champions of India in women's club football.
Kamala was also at the forefront of the Gokulam Kerala FC team that won the IWL in 2020, qualifying for the AFC Women's Club Championship as the first Indian representative in Asia.
In the last few years Kamala has moved in and out of the Indian national team. She was one of the players who boycotted the Indian national team alleging discrimination by the then head coach and assistant coach, which marked a phase in her career that she found difficult to deal with. However, she finally returned among the Blue Tigresses in the lead up to the Women's Asian Cup; a campaign that ended prematurely due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team's bubble.
With multiple domestic titles and several SAFF Championship exploits to her name, Yumnam Kamala Devi is leaving the sport with a large legacy. But football is likely to remain a part of her life. In an interview with TFG back in 2020, she had talked about her post-retirement plans,
"It's been in my mind, to help the next generation get started in pursuing football. I don't know if I'll be a coach or not. But I want to open my own academy. I want to have a dedicated ground where those who don't have enough money or support from family can come, play, learn and be taken care of. After my playing days are done, this is what I want to do. It might take a while to accomplish this, but everything takes time and effort."
Kamala, an outspoken advocate for women's football in India, is likely to remain in the consciousness of the fans for a long time, even though she has hung up her boots.
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