Aditi Chauhan: Parents need to understand importance of sports for girls

The FIFA U-17 World Cup will help break social taboos and develop awareness about women’s football, says Chauhan.

Aditi Chauhan says she couldn't have achieved what she did without the support of her parents. - AIFF MEDIA

Aditi Chauhan is just 27 but already a senior in her team and the Indian women’s football team goalkeeper couldn’t be happier about the growing number of youngsters taking up the sport.

In a freewheeling interaction with AIFF TV, Chauhan – the first Indian woman to ply her trade in a foreign league – hoped the positive trend would continue but admitted that parents played a huge role in achieving that.

“I have heard a lot of stories. A lot of girls are very passionate about sports and football but in many cases, parents do not support them. That hurts me. In India, girls are still not given much choice in what they want to do. But we need to overcome this social taboo and parents need to have more knowledge,” she said.

Insisting that taking up a sport professionally should not be the first thing on either a player or parent’s mind, Aditi said that the beginning should be made with allowing girls to play as many sports as possible at an early age.

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“As a society, we need to stress on the advantages of a girl playing a sport. Do not get stuck on one sport early on. To parents, introduce your girls to different sports, they will learn a lot of things from everywhere and that will help later on, when they decide to stick to one. Exploring different sports helped me grow. I don't hold back from expressing myself,” she explained.

'Game-changing experience'

Aditi, who played English league football with West Ham United, also praised team-mate Bala Devi, who plays for Rangers in the Scottish premier League and is the first Indian woman in a top-division European league.

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“It’s a game-changing experience on and off the pitch. I know that after West Ham, my game changed a lot and made me better. Bala has been doing very well and when she comes back to the national team, she will share her experiences with juniors and it matters a lot in shaping youngsters,” Aditi said.

She was also positive that hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup next year would have a big impact on breaking social taboos and generating awareness on women’s football.

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