Maymol Rocky, the newly-elected head coach of the Indian women’s football team, doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. This is unlike a few star players in the squad like skipper Ngangom Bala Devi and pin-up girl Aditi Chauhan, who also represents West Ham United Ladies in English league football.
Rocky — the former India right-back who donned the national colours from 2000 to 2003 — is also unaware of the history she created last month. The 32-year-old is the first woman in 42 years to coach the girls. She succeeded Sajid Dar, who looked over the proceedings for two years, while she operated as the assistant coach.
Therefore, when sports enthusiasts browsed the Internet to delve deep into her career post her ascension, there wasn’t enough information. Why?
“Those days, we were never written about as much and nothing came above financial security. I had to retire from the sport early as I got a job with the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) in 2004. That was the year when I stopped going for the India camp. Getting a job wasn’t easy as there weren’t any sports quota like you have it today,” Rocky told Sportstar . She continued playing for Goa and expanded her coaching skills guiding the state team under different age groups. “I quit playing in 2011.”
A fortnight ago, on her first assignment as India coach, the girls beat Malaysia 2-0 in its own backyard, opening up a new catalogue of rules, regulations and strict discipline. The triumph is seen as a game-changer; the women’s team had not played an international friendly in four years. It also lost three out of four matches in the 2018 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Pyongyang earlier this year.
The road map
Rocky believes her chemistry with the girls is the secret behind the first bout of success. “I felt they were more comfortable with me. They came up with questions and asked for solutions. I told them that people who sent us to Malaysia would not think about the opponent’s ranking or how tough they were. The only thing that mattered was our win. The match provided exposure and the excitement worked in our favour. If you have such events to look forward to, you will automatically feel motivated,” she asserted.
Being a taskmaster, she expects her players to take care of their daily training. Since the team doesn’t play often, there were fitness issues when she started the camp in New Delhi. “Most of the camps in India are held for short durations, but plans are underway to extend them. The girls may not have somebody guiding them all the time, so they need to train by themselves. This will help them to stay fit and train better during camps,” reasoned Rocky, who called for for more matches.
“The more they play, the better they will get at the game. We have requested the All India Football Federation for more international friendlies. But this season, the calendar looks impressive. We have the I-League qualifiers and the nationals. As of now, the girls are practising hard for the I-League.”
Facilities and alternative training
She rues that the states do not possess solid infrastructure like the national camps, which at times, creates a gap between the athletes on field. “I know of many girls who have to play in small-time clubs to remain fit. This is one of the issues that need to be addressed,” added Rocky, who also doesn’t mind if the girls play against the boys to imbibe speed and agility. “I think gender isn’t as important as playing matches. When you don’t have enough games, playing the boys is definitely a solution. They are ahead in strength and stamina. In the past, we have played against the U-19 and U-15 boys teams.”
So far, the girls have only dominated in the SAFF Championships — clinching the title four times in a row — but Rocky’s vision is to broaden the dominance into the World Cup. The women’s team is yet to qualify for the mega event. “In South Asia, we are one of the strongest and I am looking at the Asian Games next year. If we do well there, we can look forward to the World Cup too,” she said.
Recently, the Indian women’s cricket team incredible show in the cricket World Cup inspired the girls to a great extent. “When we were at the camp, the cricket team was playing the final (against England). Many of the girls came up to me and expressed their delight. They told me that they will also try to perform well, like the cricketers.”
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