Manisha Kalyan had made her international debut for the Indian women's national team at the age of just 17 back in 2019 in a friendly game in Hong Kong.
Even before making her national team debut, the youngster had signed for Gokulam Kerala FC and played in the 2018-19 season of the Indian Women's League (IWL) where she scored two goals. In the succeeding, she tasted success for the first time as Gokulam lifted their maiden IWL title.
The Punjabi midfielder opined that by introducing the IWL, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has done a great service to women's football in India as playing in such professional leagues gives the much needed financial security to the players.
What did Manisha say?
"The IWL was very important for Women's football in India," Kalyan told Goal in an exclusive chat. "Earlier it was just one Women's national competition and it was the only tournament in professional football for women. There were no other tournaments so it was important. Firstly, due to the IWL, the girls are now financially stable which is very important for professional players. We are getting competitive matches against quality players which improve our standard."
In 2020, Kalyan had lifted her first ever trophy in professional club football but almost immediately after that football in India had to be halted due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Since March 2020, the women footballers have not had any competitve action so far.
The new season of the IWL was supposed to kick-off in May but a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in India has once forced the Indian FA to halt it.
Impact of the pandemic on women's football
"It was not just for us but the pandemic affected everyone across the world. The cases are high in India at the moment so they had to cancel the IWL. Let's see what happens next.
"It is a problem, of course, because we are not able to play competitive matches. If we don't get matches then we won't be able to assess our progress. We are practising on our own. But it has definitely affected us," said the Indian midfielder.
'Gokulam Kerala a well-organised side'
The youngster wholeheartedly praised Gokulam Kerala and certified them as a very well-organised club. She also reminisced the championship-winning season with the Malabarians.
"I have played for Gokulam Kerala for two seasons in the IWL and the best thing I liked about the club was their practice sessions and how well organised they were. The coaches at the club are very good. The season we won the trophy, we were like a well-knit unit and that is why we won the title."
Importance of U-17 World Cup and AFC Asian Cup?
"The AFC Women's Asian Cup is in 2022 and my target is to do well for the country and make sure we give a tough competition to the other teams. I am working very hard for that. After that, I hope to get a chance to play outside the country for a foreign club.
"The U17 World Cup and the AFC Women's Asian Cup will be very good for women's football in India. It will be a great opportunity to increase awareness about women's football in the country."