Kamala Devi | AIFF

Indian woman footballer Yumnam Kamala Devi has just recently announced her retirement at the age of 29.

The Manipuri midfielder has already set a mark for herself in Indian football and now she is all set to start her second innings – to give back to society and football.

After playing for 12 years, Kamala Devi has decided to hang her boots. Though it was tough, she wanted to move ahead with life.

“It was a very emotional moment for me, and my aunt, who has always been by my side since childhood, helped a great deal. But I did feel that it was the right time for me to retire. I’ve played at the top level for many years now, and it’s not always easy to carry on,” said Kamala.

Kamala made her India debut in 2010 and has 33 goals from 36 matches. She won the All India Football Federation (AIFF) women’s player of the year honour in 2017.

Now it’s time to give back. “Maybe I’ll get into coaching. But more than that, I want to give back to society and to football,” Kamala who represented several top clubs and Indian Railways said.

“I have wanted to make my own football academy in my village (in Manipur). There are plenty of kids who love football over there, but they do not have the right guidance. I feel, with all the experience I’ve had as a footballer, I can give something back to all of them. I have given the academy a lot of thought, and now that I have more time, I can work towards it.”

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Looking back at her struggles, Kamala Devi said that her father was her biggest critic.

“My biggest critic was probably my father (laughs), but in a good way. He wanted me to do well in life, and he did not know much about the avenues one could create through football. That’s why when I was a kid, he would always tell me to stop playing so much and concentrate on studying. I guess, after a while, he also realised it was useless to keep me away from the game, but when he did see that I was getting to places through football, he did start supporting me,” she said.

“Sadly, he did not live to see me put on the India jersey, but I think, if he were here today, he would have looked back at my career and he would have been proud. I feel both my parents would have been proud, had they been here today.”

Kamala has advised the youngsters to be passionate about the game and continue playing.

“If you love football, play it with passion. Nothing in life is easy. There are difficulties every step of the way. But it’s all about the passion and the mentality with which you approach it. If you are passionate about what you are doing, and if you are motivated and stubborn enough, then you can overcome it, no matter how difficult the task is,” she signed off.

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