Maymol Rocky: Turkish Women’s Cup the turning point for Indian team

The four months of non-stop football have been a great learning experience for the team as well as the support staff, says the India women's football team's head coach.

Maymol Rocky says the Indian women's football team can do well in Asia.   -  AIFF

The Indian women’s football team stumbled across various locations and teams in the last four months in what has been a season of immense learning. It may have fallen short of a spot in the third round of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers, but head coach Maymol Rocky has said the team has a palpable fighting spirit now, and take on any opposition.

After an indifferent start to the year, seeds of a turnaround were sown at the Turkish Women’s Cup – a tourney in which the team lost three contests out of four. Since then, the team won six matches in a row – retaining the SAFF Women’s Championship title en route - and drew one.

“We started in December[, 2018]. It was a young team with me. I think it takes time. So maybe we were not ready for the Hero Gold Cup (held in February, 2019). But [when] we went to Turkey, even though we lost all the matches and won only one, those matches really helped us fight it out. Girls started believing in themselves from there, and for me it was good progress because after three months, I had time for that. After that, we never lost any match. Any coach will be very happy with what [the] girls [delivered] in the end. It proves that AIFF really helped us in all this because AIFF gave us this time and they believed in the women’s team and myself, too,” Rocky told Sportstar.

Summarising the experience gained in the four months, she said, “As it was a young team, I believe we learnt [many] things in these four months. [There were] camps in India, camps abroad, and tournaments; it  gave us a lot of experience. We [learnt a lot] from this. It’s not just the players, but the staff, too.”

Rocky commended the fighting spirit of the team and asserted it can play well against Asian opponents. “I believe we can do well in Asia because this is a young squad and the girls have been together for the last four months and [we know] what the result is. If this continues, yes, these girls will come up. More than anything, the most important [ingredient] the girls have is the fighting spirit. The youngsters can fight it out against any team. I’m sure [even] if we play against Japan, the girls will definitely put up a good show,” she said.

Part of the improvement has been due to better fitness. Elaborating on it, Rocky said, “The federation provided us with the [player tracking technology]. This was the first time we used it, and the first time we came to know the difference [between the fitness levels of players at the beginning and at the end]. The girls can now touch almost 12 km. The girls can play 90-plus-30 minutes on any given day. They are that fit now. [This] also takes time; it doesn’t happen in a day. The devices prove it right. Maybe one device is wrong, but the rest are right - whatever [we have been planning] for the girls, they are doing it.”

The team became tougher by learning to adapt to different climatic conditions, too. “It’s a different experience playing in these different [weather conditions] and the girls were lucky enough to [play in] both [hot and cold weather conditions],” Rocky said.

After having been playing and training together for four months, members of the team will play for different clubs in the upcoming Indian Women’s League (IWL). For the purposes of match practice, it’s a valuable tourney, points out Rocky.

“That is another big platform for all the girls but they must be playing for different clubs. But still, it’s about matches. Girls are getting more matches. That’s more important. For now, the focus of every player is to play the IWL. IWL will give them a good platform,” Rocky said.

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