The Indian women's football team youngsters will hope to gain invaluable experience from the upcoming friendly internationals against Uzbekistan and Belarus.

India will take on host Uzbekistan on April 5 and Belarus on April 8.

Ahead of the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 in India, head coach Maymol Rocky has been busy getting the right mix of youth and experience. 

Two players who embody this perfectly are midfielder Sangita Basfore, who captained the side in the three friendlies in Turkey and youngster Martina Thokchom, who has made the transition from the U-17 team. Martina credits the seniors for helping her feel like a "part of the team".

"When I first joined, I was quite nervous, but they (seniors) welcomed me nicely and made me feel comfortable. Helped with everything both on the field and off it which helped me feel like a part of the team.

"I miss my U-17 teammates a lot, but here everyone is elder to me so I get to learn from their experience," says the youngster from Manipur.

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Martina says she is looking forward to a "challenging" encounter against a higher-ranked opponent.

"Uzbekistan is a higher-ranked country (41 in the recent FIFA rankings) and we're going to play in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup next year so this friendly is very important. This match is going to be very challenging for us. We can use this as good preparation."

Sense of unity

Meanwhile, Sangita is grateful for these opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "Initially we had issues because in lockdown we practised individually and when we came together, it was tough to understand each other, but slowly we bonded together as a team and developed a sense of unity.

"I need to thank the authorities for giving us these opportunities to train even in these times.

"Then we travelled to Turkey for an exposure tour where we had the chance to play against three higher-ranked teams. This helped strengthen our unity even more. That benefited our team a lot and it should show in this match against Uzbekistan,” Sangita said.

The midfielder was named captain for the three friendlies in Turkey against quality oppositions like Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine.

"It's not always important to have the captain's armband. I'll try to motivate the young players and guide them. Now, Indu di (Indumathi Kathiresan) is the captain so with whatever experience I've gained, I look forward to working with her," she said.