All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel felt all players should “take inspiration” from Bala Devi who is currently on a professional contract with Scotland’s Rangers FC, the first Indian woman footballer to do so.

Interacting with National Team players across all age-groups in a video conference on May 15, the AIFF president told Bala: “We are extremely proud of your achievements. You have shown the road ahead for budding footballers, and have proved that our women footballers are no way inferior to any. I am sure you will make others – your colleagues, the U-17 Women’s team girls to dream too”.

Bala, who is currently in Glasgow, said that the unprecedented exposure stints with the National Team made her confident as a player.

“In 2018-19 we were constantly playing, or camping. It made me more confident of my abilities as a player, and made me believe in myself. We played against so many countries including matches in Europe,” she said. “Those matches helped me immensely to get myself the current club contract.”

Bala was referring to the Women’s Senior Team playing 25 friendly matches in 2018-19, a fact which was also highlighted by goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan. “On behalf of everyone in the team I need to thank you for all the exposure tours,” Aditi told the AIFF President. “The standard of football in our team has improved drastically. Results have followed and it has made us more confident, and helped us mature into better players.”

Striker Dangmei Grace added: “The more we got to play the more we improved. The strong International calendar helped us a lot. It was exciting, and we look forward for such matches. Thank you.”

The conference was a unique concept where Patel interacted at length with all the players on an individual basis to understand their wellness during the Covid19 pandemic, get a feel of the schedules of the players and their mindset overall.

Meanwhile men’s National Team Central defender Sandesh Jhingan maintained that everyone should “do their best to stay fit”.

“We cannot control what is not in our hands. But we need to utilise the time to stay fit as and whenever everything opens up once again,” he expressed. “On my part, we have been provided schedules from the National Coach and Professor (Luka Radman) and I am sticking to it”.

Taking it a bit further, iconic National Team striker Sunil Chhetri has urged every footballer to strictly follow their own schedules during the lockdown phase.

“As everyone stays locked in their homes, meal and sleep timings are going awry. But as players we can’t afford to do that. So please stick to your schedules,” Chhetri stated.

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