Bembem Devi: Seemed like living a dream

"My junior players promised me the gold medal and they kept their word. I am very happy," the most capped Indian women football player said after captaining the eves to an emphatic 4-0 win over Nepal to defend their football title in the 12th South Asian Games.

Oinam Bembem Devi was voted as AIFF women’s footballer of the year in 2001 and 2013.

An emotional Oinam Bembem Devi today thanked her teammates for giving her a fitting farewell as she hung her boots to mark an end to a career spanning more than two decades.

“My junior players promised me the gold medal and they kept their word. I am very happy,” the most capped Indian women football player said after captaining the eves to an emphatic 4-0 win over Nepal to defend their football title in the 12th South Asian Games, here today.

“It looks like I am living a dream. I had never imagined that my playing career would span over two decades and here I am today. I want to thank the AIFF (All India Football Federation) for giving me the opportunity to represent the country and all the coaches who made me a better player. The last two decades have been nothing short of spectacular,” she added.

The Manipuri footballer wants to concentrate on coaching and paying back to the sport in her home state.

“But I’m happy that I will now be able to devote my time to the kids back in Manipur who are demanding and asking everyday when will I come and train them. It’s payback time for me,” she told PTI.

The AIFF is also likely to hand her some assignment for the U-14 and U-16 teams in the coming future, she said.

The Manipuri has also had the distinction of playing in a foreign league when she had inked a deal with Maldives side New Radiant in 2014 and emerged as the highest scorer of the championship with six goals in only three matches.

Having made her international debut at the age of 15 against Guam, Bembem Devi came into spotlight against traditional heavyweights Japan during the 1996 Asian Games.

India had lost the match by a solitary goal but her nimble footwork was applauded by the pundits around the continent.

She became the national team captain in 2003 and successfully guided India to their first major title at the 2010 South Asian Games. She also guided the country to SAFF Championship success later that year.

Devi was voted as AIFF women’s footballer of the year in 2001 and 2013.

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