Indian Football has produced many role models over the years, and one such role model, who has recently called it a day on her career in professional football is Blue Tigresses icon Yumnam Kamala Devi.
Having served Indian Football for the better part of 12 years, Kamala decided to hang up her boots earlier this week, after a fulfilling career. Indian Football caught up with the winner of the 2017 AIFF Player of the Year Award after her announcement in a candid chat. EXCERPTS:
Tell us about the thought process behind your retirement. How difficult was it to decide?
It had already been on my mind for some time, but I can tell you, it’s not an easy decision to make. It was a very emotional moment for me, and my aunt, who has always been by my side since childhood, helped a great deal. But I did feel that it was the right time for me to retire. I’ve played at the top level for many years now, and it’s not always easy to carry on.
Any favourite moments from the long and illustrious career that you have had?
Well, I’ve had so many matches with the Blue Tigresses, it’s hard to recall. But I think, towards the start of my career, back in 2012, when we had won the SAFF Women’s Championship Final, and I had scored the third goal, that certainly ranks high in my mind. I was also given the Most Valuable Player of the tournament award, and that felt nice.
I was still one of the youngsters in the squad back then, and I had learnt so much from the likes of Bembem di (Devi) and the other seniors. That’s the thing about football, as it is in life. You learn things from your seniors, and then they go away and you tend to pass them on to the junior players who come after them. Players come and go, but the core values remain.
You have had a lot of struggles earlier, but you have also proved your critics wrong. How would you look back on your career?
My biggest critic was probably my father (laughs), but in a good way. He wanted me to do well in life, and he did not know much about the avenues one could create through football. That’s why when I was a kid, he would always tell me to stop playing so much and concentrate on studying. I guess, after a while, he also realised it was useless to keep me away from the game, but when he did see that I was getting to places through football, he did start supporting me.
Sadly, he did not live to see me put on the India jersey, but I think, if he were here today, he would have looked back at my career and he would have been proud. I also have a stable job because of football in the Northeast Railways, which is something that he always wanted. So, looking back, I think I have had a pretty good career. I feel both my parents would have been proud, had they been here today.
What next for Kamala Devi? Any plans of taking on coaching?
Well, maybe I’ll get into coaching. But more than that, I want to give back to society and to football. I have wanted to make my own football academy in my village. There are plenty of kids who love football over there, but they do not have the right guidance. I feel, with all the experience I’ve had as a footballer, I can give something back to all of them. I have given the academy a lot of thought, and now that I have more time, I can work towards it.
Any advice for youngsters starting out in the beautiful game?
If you love football, play it with passion. Nothing in life is easy. There are difficulties every step of the way. But it’s all about the passion and the mentality with which you approach it. If you are passionate about what you are doing, and if you are motivated and stubborn enough, then you can overcome it, no matter how difficult the task is.
By Soumo Ghosh
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