Women footballers eyeing perfect goodbye for Bembem
India will look to give a fitting farewell to veteran Bembem Devi, the face of women's football in the country, when they clash against Nepal in a bid to retain the title in the 12th South Asian Games here on Monday.
Having served the women's team for two decades, the captain of the Indian team had announced that the South Asian Games would be her last, and the Manipuri would be keen to sign off in style. "It will be an emotional moment for me that I won't be able to sing the National Anthem on the pitch again. It has been dream journey for me and hopefully I will finish on a winning note," the 35-year-old told PTI on the eve of the match.
The Indian eves were slow to start with and struggled to find the target in this tournament but in the matches that mattered, they managed to excel, especially their 5-1 win against Bangladesh in the previous match in a must-win situation meant that their resurgence came just in time. A fit-again Grace Dangmei, the vital cog in the team's attacking wheel, will mean that India would look for an early breakthrough and dominate the possession with the likes of Bala Devi and Kamala Devi - the duo who struck a brace each in their rout of Bangladesh.
"She has recovered from the knee sprain and trained for about 20 minutes today. Hopefully, we will get her for the match and it will really bolster our attack," coach Sajid Dar told PTI.
"Although we respect them (Nepal) as opponents, we will play for a win and our goal is the gold medal. We also have to take our chances against Nepal. The inability to do so can land us in trouble," he added.
League toppers Nepal, on the other hand, have been the best finishers and were the first to seal the final spot with three wins and the only draw, which was against India.
But Nepal chief coach Dhruba Bahadur said it's India who would be under pressure as they're favourites here. "We will go for an all-out attack...that's the best strategy. Our best result against India has been the draw. We've nothing to lose, so the pressure would be on them," he said.
Forward Anu Lama and Savitra Devi will be in the centre of Nepalese attacks and it will also be a test for Indian goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan, who has hardly been tested so far, conceding just one goal in four games.