Manisha Kalyan etched her name into the memories of every Indian football fan when she scored a senior goal against Brazil back in November of this year.
The 20-year-old from Mugowal village in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, is also the first-ever Indian player to score in a top-flight Asian competition when she found the back of the net for Gokulam Kerala FC in an AFC Women’s Asian Championship, against Uzbekistan’s FC Bunyodkar.
Congratulatory messages have been flooding in ever since for Manisha from friends and family after her historic feat.
“My family and friends were happy and proud that I scored that goal. It is such a great feeling to have when your parents are proud of you. There were so many calls and messages I had received that day which I will be forever grateful,” Manisha said during a virtual interaction, arranged by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
When asked about the difference in standards and quality of football of the opponents India faced in the four-nation tournament in Manaus, Manisha said that physically the footballers from Brazil, Chile and Venezuela were more advanced.
“The South Americans were a bit taller but we have improved on our fitness, strength and stamina. Earlier, we used to think that we are physically weak but now we are much better and we are not afraid of any team. We just need to work on some basics. Skill-wise, I feel we are a bit lacking in our basics like first touch, miss-passes etc. But we are not lacking in speed and strength,” Manisha said.
When prodded further for areas she herself is looking to improve, Manisha said: “When I play as winger, initially my first touch used to go out but I learnt how to keep it in. My shooting accuracy was not very good, I worked on that also.”
Manisha stressed the importance of the experience she and the national team gained from the higher-ranked opponent
“We gained a lot of experience against the higher-ranked teams and we got to learn so much from them. We used to be nervous facing tough opponents, but after having faced such big teams, we don’t feel that pressure anymore. We don’t fear any team and just want to play good football against them and give them tough competition,” she said.
“Firstly, playing against Brazil was such a huge thing, so was scoring. But that does not change our main aim, which is to do well in the AFC Asian Cup. All of that was done so that we could prepare better for the tournament, and we want to do well in Asia,” Manisha added.
Manisha also recalled how the perceptions of certain neighbours in her village changed and also how her footballing has journey shaped up.
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Having won the AIFF Emerging Player of the Year 2020-21, Manisha has her sights set on the upcoming AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which in Mumbai and Pune at the first month of next year. Even though it will a tough challenge for the Indian women’s football team, Manisha is sure that she and her teammates will give it their all to go deep in the tournament.
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