The flagbearer of Indian women's football for over two decades, Oinam Bembem Devi, has been conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
The award, which recognises outstanding achievement in national sports, is a just reward for the exploits of Manipur-born Bembem Devi who has led the country with distinction in women's football.
The gifted 37-year-old made her international debut at the age of just 15 in 1995 and went on to play till 2016 for the national team. She captained the team from 2003 and led India to victory in the 2010 South Asian Games and 2012 SAFF Championships.
She bowed out on a high, winning the 2016 South Asian Games Gold Medal in Shillong.
Bembem Devi, also nicknamed the 'Durga of Indian football', has been involved in spreading awareness about Women's football and is a Brand Ambassador for FIFA Live Your Goals, India.
She is the 25th footballer to win the award and only the second woman to do so, after Shanti Mullick in 1983.
Bembem Devi hoped that the award will inspire more girls to take up the sport. "I hope this Award will help remove the mental block and inspire all girls in the society to take up the sport," she told the-aiff.com after hearing the news.