New Delhi [India], December 22 (ANI): Indian women's football captain Ashalata Devi believes that starting a sport at a young age is "really important" in the formation of a player.
"One thing I would like to say is that it's important to start young. I started playing football when I was 12,13 but you have players starting at 7,8. Those 4-5 years are really important in the formation of the player and learning the basics," Ashalata said in a statement.
The captain also feels that the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 and FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2022 will inspire new girls to take up football.
"I hope the two tournaments that we are hosting next year -- AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 and FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2022 inspire new girls to take up football. When they see us playing in front of packed stadiums, it will definitely motivate them," she said.
Earlier this month, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) launched its bid for the AFC Asian Cup 2027. AIFF President Praful Patel and Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju launched the bid book along with the bid logo. Special guests along with them included former India defender Gouramangi Singh, Ashalata and India U-16 star Shubho Paul.
It hasn't often happened that the women's team captain comes in as one of the special guests for launching an AFC Asian Cup bid for a nation. Reflecting on the same, Ashalata said: "This shows the importance AIFF is giving to women's football now. Earlier, no one would have known who is the captain of the women's team but now I am being invited as a guest for such a big occasion. I don't think any other country had their women's team captain present for the bid launch. I am extremely proud."
Ashalata will also get an opportunity to play the Asian Cup in front of her home fans before the men's team, with AFC Asian Women's Cup scheduled in 2022 to be held in India.
"It will be a huge honour to represent India on such a big stage. The whole team is excited about it and we are preparing really well for it. We saw the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and the kind of support that the team got. We are hopeful of getting the same support." (ANI)