Lynda Kom (left) poses with India women team’s captain Ashalata Devi | AIFF

Manipur’s Lynda Kom won the Golden Boot and the Most Valuable Player of the tournament awards in the recently concluded SAFF U-18 Women’s Football Championship in Jamshedpur which India won.

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The 17-year-old striker will also be representing India in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which is set to take place in the country in six months’ time. And now she is getting ready for the mega FIFA event.

“I go into every game with the aim of scoring more than I did in the last game. It may not always be possible, but as a striker, it’s a good aim to have,” Lynda was quoted as saying by the-aiff.com.

“I am extremely happy to have won these awards, but this is all down to my teammates, without whose help, I would not be able to score these goals. It is because they had put in all the hard work in defence and in midfield, that I was able to score,” she said. “I want to dedicate these awards to my teammates and to the entire staff in the team, who have been so supportive of me.”

Hailing from the Khoirentak Khunou village in Manipur, Lynda Kom is one of many, who had to face the struggles of societal gender norms in her earlier days. The daughter of a farmer and a stationary shopkeeper, Lynda’s family was not always aware of the prospects for Lynda in the beautiful game.

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While she would often run off to play alongside the boys at her village ground, Lynda would often be told to focus on building a career through academics.

“My father would always scold me whenever I used to come back from the ground. He would tell me to concentrate on my studies instead of playing football. But I always wanted to play,” Lynda averred with a sheepish smile.

Soon, the youngster got through to the SAI Academy after a trial that gave direction to her footballing dreams. She soon made long strides in junior football, representing India in the 2017 SAFF U-15 Championship, and was subsequently scouted for the U-17 World Cup team in 2019.

“Once I started playing for the junior national team, I think my parents began to see the scope of football. That’s when they started supporting me in my endeavours,” she said.

A different identity:

Many would have often noticed head coach Thomas Dennerby refers to the young striker as Biju, and not Lynda at interviews and press conferences. The forward from Manipur went on to explain the reason behind it.

“We had three different Lyndas in the camp at that time, and it was always difficult for everyone. Whenever anybody would call Lynda, three of us would look back at them. So all my teammates, mostly the Manipuri ones, named me Biju, after the Manipuri actress Biju Ningombam.”

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“I did not really mind, because she is my favourite actress, and many of my teammates also believe that I resemble her,” she laughed.

In the footballing world, Lynda is one who idolises Cristiano Ronaldo and the hard work that he puts in to be the best on the pitch. Typifying the same approach to the game, Lynda believes in constant improvement.

“There are a lot of areas where I need to improve. I think I still need to improve my finishing, so that I can score more goals, I need to improve my 1-v-1 situations, and also my speed. Being a forward, my main aim is to score as many and help my team, so in general, I want to improve each and every area of my game that would help me do that,” she said.

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