Overcoming language barriers, Vanlahriattiri aims AFC U-19 ch'ship qualification with India

Vanlahriattiri is keen to be a key member in India's bid to qualify for the AFC U-19 women's championship.

India's U-19 women's football team captain Vanlahriattiri.   -  AIFF Media

Mizoram has been one of the most productive footballing states in India, over the past few years. The state has already contributed a number of players to the top football teams across the country.

The Northeastern state has had a similar effect on women’s football as well. As India prepares for the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship qualifiers, Vanlahriattiri will look to be a key member of the team.

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Being an out and out midfielder herself, 'B', as she is popularly known within the dressing room, idolises Liverpool and England legend Steven Gerrard.

Much like the other girls in the team, Vanlahriattiri also had to play alongside boys, when she was a kid, as her village did not have any team for girls. However, her talent was there for everyone to see, and she soon caught the attention of the state-level coaches.

“Back then we did not have any girls’ teams in our locality, but playing against the boys helped me develop my game in the early stages, and I was soon called up for the Sub-Junior Girls National Championship in 2015,” Vanlahriattiri said.

“I performed well in that tournament, and soon after, the national team came calling.”

While she had a smooth rise to the junior national team, it was not all smooth once she made it to the top.

“Of course, it’s a dream come true, to play for the country. But adjusting to the new dressing room was a bit difficult at first. The biggest problem that I faced back then was that of the language,” she said.

“It gets really difficult if you cannot understand what your coach and teammates are telling you, especially on the pitch, and especially if you are a midfielder. But I put my head down and worked my way through those difficult times,” said Vanlahriattiri. “Now we all understand each other. We are like a family.”

India put in a good show in the SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship earlier this month when it ended the tournament with a bronze medal. Now, however, they will have a sterner test as they look to qualify for the continental competition.

“We have Pakistan, Nepal, and Thailand in our group. I think we are in a good position, compared to these teams, and can get the desired results. I wouldn’t be surprised if we manage to top our group,” said Vanlahriattiri.

India began its qualification campaign against arch-rival Pakistan with an 18-0 win on Wednesday and will now take on Nepal on October 26 and host Thailand on October 28.

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