Ashalata creates history, leads India to Olympic qualifiers second round

Ashalata Devi created history by becoming the first-ever women's football captain to lead India past the first round of Olympic qualifiers.

Ashalata Devi (centre) ahead of India's match against Myanmar.   -  AIFF

Ashalata Devi created history on Tuesday by becoming the first-ever women's football captain to lead India past the first round of Olympic qualifiers.

India went down fighting 1-2 to hosts Myanmar in its last group match of the first round but the results in its last two matches - a 1-1 draw against Nepal and a 7-1 win against Bangladesh - ensured its progress to the second stage.

Ashalata, who made her debut in 2011 as an 18-year-old, interestingly got to know a day before the opening match that she would be leading the side. She also rose to the occasion and played a key role in the centre of India's defence in all three games.

"It was a truly magical moment," she told aiff.com, on asked how she felt when the announcement was made.

On leading the side: "I was delighted and excited, but at the same time, I was extremely nervous as well since I was worried about how I would handle the team. There are players in the squad who are senior to me and so many youngsters as well - so it was a little overwhelming and tough at the start," she said.

Speaking about the performance, the 25-year-old says the team achieved the required objective at the tournament.

"We may have lost to Myanmar but I feel we were very good in our defensive play against them as well as in the other two games. They (Myanmar) are ranked much higher than us and the way we played in that game was tremendous. We were solid at the back and the midfield supported us as well. I am satisfied with our performance."

Ashalata is hopeful that performances like such will generate interest in women's football back home.

"I sincerely hope that such results continue to generate more and more interest in women's football across the country and with the support of our well-wishers, we will strive to achieve greater heights and give our best in the upcoming tournaments," she said.

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