Aditi Chauhan: India will put up a fantastic show in U-17 World Cup

The India goalkeeper says the team isn’t short on preparation for the marquee event.

Aditi Chauhan...“The U-17 World Cup is going to be a huge opportunity for our girls to play and compete against the best in the world.”   -  Special Arrangement

India goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan feels that the U-17 team is not short on preparation for the upcoming World Cup despite the absence of senior members of the team since 2019.

India organised its last U-17 National Championships in April 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak upset all plans. But Aditi feels the Indian team will be one of the sides to watch out for in the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

“This group has been preparing for this moment for quite some time,” Chauhan said in an interview to PTI from Bhubaneswar.

“They’ve been getting regular match time and training regularly and hopefully, they’ll be able to gain more exposure and play more friendlies before the World Cup. I am confident that they will put on a fantastic performance in front of their home crowd at the World Cup.”

India under coach Thomas Dennerby has already named 33 probables who are currently training in Jamshedpur. There have been questions about the selection policies without a national tournament. “I think India has a lot of potential in their U-17 squad and I have been lucky to play with a few of them. The young girls have shown their fighting spirit in their last SAFF Cup where they were the champions. The players have been practising together for a long time and I am sure India will be one of the teams to watch out for,” she said.

‘Huge opportunity’

The tournament is slated from October 17-30 in the five cities of Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad and Navi Mumbai.

“The U-17 World Cup is going to be a huge opportunity for our girls to play and compete against the best in the world. It is important that we put on a good display because all eyes will be on our team from across the world. We can demonstrate that women’s football in India is progressing on the right path by doing better here,” she added.

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In April last year, Aditi became the second Indian woman player after Bala Dev to ply her trade outside India, when she signed a one-year deal with Iceland’s third division club Hamar Hveragerði women’s team. “We've also witnessed the standard of football in other nations by playing against them on a regular basis, and it's fair to say we’re not that far behind. Of course we need to improve our game, but the differences are little. We have some extremely good players in our ranks, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of Indian players playing in foreign leagues in the coming years,” the star goalkeeper from Tamil Nadu added.

The Gokulam Kerala goalkeeper’s sole focus now is on their Thursday’s title-deciding clash against Sethu in the Indian Women’s League.

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Gokulam Kerala will have a chance to follow its men’s team when it faces the Madurai outfit in a winner-takes-all final round clash at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

“For us, we have to be at our best and give our 100 per cent to win this league. We are not underestimating anyone, but, we believe in ourselves in our talent and the work that we have put up throughout this season. And, I trust all the players, coaching staff and management that we will do whatever it takes to win the league,” she said.

The Kerala outfit has the best striker duo of Ghanaian recruit Elshaddai Acheampong and Manisha Kalyan who lead the scoring charts with a massive 32 goals between them.

India my second home - Elshaddai

Reflecting on her stupendous show, Elshaddai, who has scored 19 goals so far, said: “Nothing comes easy. This is the reflection of the hard work and effort put in by everyone in this team. Without my team-mates, who always believe in me, and my coaches, I don’t think I would be the highest goal-scorer of the tournament.”

Hailing from Kumasi in Ghana, Elshaddai, who has five siblings, began her football journey at the age of six.

She has not looked back since making her debut with Ghanaian professional club Dreams FC in 2013.

Having joined Gokulam Kerala in 2021, she feels the standard of football in India has improved. “If I had to compare with other leagues, I would choose India and I consider it my second home.”

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