Ashalata Devi: My family initially felt that football is not for girls

Ashalata Devi Indian Women's National Team
AIFF Media
Ashalata Devi has no plans to retire anytime soon...

Indian women's national team skipper Loitongbam Ashalata Devi feels that she is ready to take up the challenge of playing abroad. 

The 2018-19 AIFF (All India Football Federation) Women's Footballer of the Year has praised the impact Bala Devi and Aditi Chauhan have made on the youngsters who dream to travel to foreign countries to play football.

"Aditi and Bala opened the doors for others to go abroad and play. So now everyone will work hard and strive to fulfil their dreams of playing abroad, taking inspiration from Bala and Aditi," she told AIFF via an Instagram Live chat on Thursday. 

Bala Devi became the first Indian women footballer with a professional contract at a foreign club when she signed for Scottish side Rangers

Ashalata added, "Every player dreams to play at a professional club abroad but right now I am more focused on the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup, but if I get an opportunity (to play abroad), I will go for it."

Dalima Chhibber Ashalata Devi Indian Women

The 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup, along with the FIFA U-17 World Cup that will be hosted by India in 2021, will be important events for the rise of women's football in India, according to the talented footballer. 

"This (FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup) is a very big opportunity for us because there are a few corners in India where they don't know that women's football exists. So I feel that the U-17 World Cup and the Asian Cup will be very good for us.

"These girls (U-17 women's national team) are very lucky to get an opportunity to play for the country at such a young age. With your hard work, you will perform well and the whole of India is backing you. When you come from the U-17 team to the senior team also, you will learn a lot more. So give it your all and don't let this opportunity slip from your hands," the 27-year-old imparted her words of support to the Indian eves.

The Indian FA has meanwhile officially expressed their interest in hosting the 2027 AFC Asian Cup men's event. 

Ashalata Devi Indian Women

The former Rising Student Club defender also shared her plans for the future. 

"When I just started off (playing football), there were a lot of struggles. I didn't have support from my family who felt that this game is not for girls as they were more worried about getting me married. I was punished, so stopped playing for a few months but slowly started playing again.

"Ever since I got selected in the India U-17 team, my mother realised that I can grow in the sport and started supporting me unconditionally. Now she wants me to play at the highest level and not think about retirement anytime soon. 

"Only when I feel that I have contributed enough to my country, only then would I think of retiring. Right now, I have my priorities for (to play for) my country."