From lanes of Delhi to bending it like Beckham against Nepal, Dalima Chhiber has come a long way. To know her journey the Sportsrush interacted with her.
Dalima Chhibber is a young footballing sensation, who has already made a deep impact in the Indian football arena. The 21-year-footballer has reached heights through her exploits with the Indian national football team.
Raised in Delhi, the player was trained by her father since an early age and still growing under his guidance. Dalima since an early age is an avid follower of FC Barcelona and admires Ronaldinho.
The Indian International known for her long-range goals has gained prominence in the Asian women’s football circuit at a very young age. Especially, when she gained massive fandom after scoring a sensational goal against Nepal in the SAFF Cup final.
Since then, Dalima has not seen back and kept on working hard to reach at the apex level of Indian football. The player recently enjoyed a successful campaign with Gokulam Kerala FC in the Indian Women’s league.
Further the player wishes to achieve several laurels for her national side, and aspires to make India, a football giant in Asia in coming years.
The Sportsrush interacted with the Indian sensation, and tried to sneak valuable insights of the Indian and Women’s football through her opinions and experiences.
Q) World Cup brings a frenzy environment in the Indian society, with the Women’s World Cup on air, have you seen any significant changes around you?
Dalima: I would not say that it made a massive impact, because it is not happening in India, it is just being shown over here. I wouldn’t say it is like U-17 World cup, when football actually achieved massive fame and was celebrated in India. If it had been organized over here, things would have been different for the Women’s football in India. Since, it is being telecasted along with the Cricket World Cup, not many are aware of it or are giving attention to it. I would say only hardcore fans and Women footballers are looking at it regularly to learn from the highest level, but that is a positive step itself.
Q) Women’s World Cup is a far-sighted tournament to be hosted by AIFF presently, so according to you which tournament should we try to bring in India?
Dalima: Right now, I would say we should focus at the Women’s Asian Cup. For now, it is very important for us to be a power house in Asia to call further FIFA tournaments in India,We have to reach into the semi-finals or final of AFC Asian Cup, to think of playing in the World Cup. Once we achieve a powerhouse status in Asia, only then we can think of competing at the World level.
Q) There isn’t any mention of your female football heroes while you were budding as a footballer, we want to know your idols from Women football.
Dalima: I would say that was never been asked to me before. While I was growing up, there wasn’t any Women footballer in India to look up to. At that time, I only heard about Carli Lloyd, Marta, Abby Wambach- these were the few names I knew. I used to follow Marta and used to watch her videos, then I like Carli Lloyd, as she plays at the same position with similar style of mine.
Q) You gained prominence after your wonder-goal against Nepal in the final of SAFF Cup, and that goal was immensely compared with Ronaldinho’s goal in 2002 World Cup. How did you feel at that time?
Dalima: Honestly, I never saw that goal by Ronaldinho before I scored mine, as I was only four, when he scored it. When I actually scored that goal, and my video was compared with his goal, it was crazy and was overwhelmed with the reaction. I was really happy that women’s football was getting reaction, and I got a recognition in a country like India. However, I was confident while taking that shot against Nepal, as I’ve always been a long range scorer, I scored another long-range goal in Indian Women’s league, even that got good reaction but goal against Nepal got 8 times more of it. However, scoring against Nepal added the joy, as it was a revenge match against them.
Q) We have Aditi Chauhan, who played for West Ham, do you aspire to play abroad and which club would you prefer to join, if you had a choice.
Dalima: I do but I have not thought of a particular club, but whenever I will go there, I will make sure that I make a mark over there and not end up with a short-stint in the European football. I want to sustain over there. In coming years, it is definitely one of my dreams, but it is not an immediate desire, as i believe, my personal growth is more important right now, and if i go, i want to be my best version to remain over there.
Q) But is there any inclination towards a particular club?
Dalima: Obviously, I am a Barcelona fan, so surely I would like to play for FC Barcelona Femini, Leicester City and Manchester United Women have great teams in the Premier league. Then, Lyon is a dominant force in Europe, so any day I would be ready to play for them.
Q) During your initial days as a footballer, while you used to play with boys, were they cautious because of their prejudices and you being a girl, and how did you tackle it?
Dalima: Yes, they were cautious at first, when it comes to boys playing with girls, they are cautious every time, they don’t want to end up injuring or hurting you because they are physically stronger. However, when I pushed 2-3 around, dribbled past them and scored against them, it came to their egos. Although, since then, i think, I made myself appear as physically strong and fit. I wanted myself to look as a player on field and not just only a woman trying to pick up a sport, and I guess I have made a point that they don’t consider me just as a girl on the field.
Q) Did you ever had a training session with the Indian Men’s football team?
Dalima: No, we never had a training session with them but for two days, Stephan Constantine’s coaching team flew to Punjab during our SAFF Cup camp in the end of 2016, we had a chance to have sessions with their coaching staff but never trained with the Men’s team.
Q) Coming to Punjab, this season of Indian Women’s league happened in Punjab, and you scored against a team from Delhi, so how was your overall experience?
Dalima: It was great altogether, since I was playing for a great team like Gokulam, and who doesn’t aspire to play for them. On the field, you really don’t think about who is against you, even when I played against my siblings on the field, I have never thought about the relation, it is just players. Similarly, my goal came against Delhi.
Q) There is a huge demand by Women footballers on equal pay with Men footballer, coming to Indian scenario, the pay gap is huge. What’s your take on it?
Dalima: The pay difference is massively huge, and that’s why Hope Solo walked out of the USA Women’s team and Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg, who is currently the best player in the world is not playing the World Cup. I feel it is a worldwide problem, but USA has come up with solutions. In other countries it is gradually rising. However, over here it will take time, when our game will grow, the money will start increasing.
Q) When you were quite younger, your female football peers might have left playing football. According to you, what kind of problems do they usually face that make them quit?
Dalima: I would say parental pressure. Parents usually do not see a career out of women’s football, as at that time IWL did not start. Indian team was not doing well, it is now the Women’s football have achieved some attention. In mega cities, pressure of academics in my experience overpowers everything. Since parents do not see a future in football, the women footballers usually had to take academics.
Q) What is the future of Indian Women’s football?
Dalima: It has surely changed a lot. There have been vast difference than before. In coming years, we definitely have a great chance to be a powerhouse in Asia. Moreover, to have a scoreline of 3-3 against Myanmar, who have FIFA ranking of 44, speaks volume about us. It can also be seen in the level of IWL, where scorelines proves the tight level of competition in the Indian Women’s football.
Q) How good is University level football by women in India?
Dalima: During my time in Jesus and Mary college, Delhi University. There were only 6-7 teams, which used to compete. Now, the numbers have surely increased. The level of football is good, and few players are quality. However, Delhi University still has to grow in terms of continuity. Universities of Punjab, Rohtak, Pondicherry and Chennai are performing really well.
Q) What’s next in the Indian Women’s team schedule?
Dalima: We are not really aware, as we haven’t got any updates for upcoming tournaments. However, right now, our aim is to be a strong team in Asia, so that later we can look up to FIFA World Cup, as it is our end goal, and someday hopefully to bring the trophy in India.