‘Played a memorable match’

Bembem’s last hurray

Indian women’s football team captain Oinam Bembem Devi is given a grand farewell by her teammates and officials after india’s win over Nepal in final of SAG at JN Stadium in city on Monday. (Photo by Sanjib Bhattacharjee).

Shillong: An emotional Oinam Bembem Devi on Monday thanked her teammates for giving her a fitting farewell as she hung her boots to mark an end to a career spanning more than two decades.
“Everybody played exceedingly well from the start and till the end of the game. This game (India-Nepal 12th SAG 2016 final) will be the most memorable in my life,” the 35-year-old, who led the women soccer team in several tournaments and won the 11th south Asian games and 1st SAFF Women’s Football championship at Bangladesh said.
“I did not feel anything when my long shot missed the bar because I did not play to score goal but collectively with the team to win,” she said.
Bembem, the shining star of India’s women football team, dedicated Monday’s victory to the All India Football Federation (AIFF), her parents and supporters who motivated her in and outside the playfield n the last two decades.
“I am leaving for Manipur tomorrow (Tuesday). I will have to spend time with the family. I have decided to coach the United Pioneer’s Club (Boy’s football team in Manipur) as well as the Youth Armature Welfare Association Club from where I started my career as a footballer,” Bembem said.
“My junior players promised me the gold medal and they kept their word.  I am very happy,” the most capped Indian women football player said after captaining the eves to an emphatic 4-0 win over Nepal to defend their football title in the 12th South Asian Games, here .
“But I’m happy that I will now be able to devote my time to the kids back in Manipur who are demanding and asking everyday when will I come and train them. It’s payback time for me,” she said.
The AIFF is also likely to hand her some assignment for the U-14 and U-16 teams in the coming future, she said.
The Manipuri has also had the distinction of playing in a foreign league when she had inked a deal with Maldives side New Radiant in 2014 and emerged as the highest scorer of the championship with six goals in only three matches.
Having made her international debut at the age of 15 against Guam, Bembem Devi came into spotlight against traditional heavyweights Japan during the 1996 Asian Games.
India had lost the match by a solitary goal but her nimble footwork was applauded by the pundits around the continent.
She became the national team captain in 2003 and successfully guided India to their first major title at the 2010 South Asian Games.
She also guided the country to SAFF Championship success later that year.
Devi was voted as AIFF women’s footballer of the year in 2001 and 2013. (Agencies)