India woman footballer Bala Devi on Tuesday advised youngsters to ignore negative comments like "why are girls playing" and rather focus on their sport if they want to achieve success in their career.
Bala, who joined Rangers Women FC of Scotland to become the first Indian woman to sign a professional contract with a European club, said family support is crucial in this regard.
"My family supported me throughout but pressure from society was always there. They used to ask 'why are girls playing? What is the benefit of that?'" she said on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
"My parents and I had to hear this a lot but we never answered back. When I went to play in the U-19 National Championship in 2002, Manipur became the champions and I received the best scorer award, and that is when people stopped asking questions and started supporting me,” she said.
Bala missed out on the AFC Women's Asian Cup hosted by the country in January-February as she was recuperating from a surgery.
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Indian women's team captain Ashalata Devi said women are not less than men in any way.
"We are no less than any men and we are multi-talented. So anyone looks down upon you or says wrong, you just have to work hard. You need to focus on your dream by putting in a lot of hard work and dedication and keep on moving forward," she said.
"We, the women are built different, but we can very much achieve what men can, and maybe more. In order to move forward, we need to be one and respect each other."
Goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan felt the young generation should take inspiration from the like of badminton ace P V Sindhu and the women's hockey team which finished fourth in the Olympics for the first time after 41 years.
“We’ve seen in the Olympics how incredibly our women’s team (hockey) have performed. Obviously, we’ve got P.V. Sindhu as well who’s leading from the front and she set new heights, and is a leading example of how much or how far women can achieve at the International level," Chauhan said.
India were forced out of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup after a dozen COVID-19 cases among their players led to the cancellation of a group match against Chinese Taipei minutes before kickoff.