The 4th of January was a big day for the Indian Women’s football team. They clinched the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup for the fourth consecutive time by defeating Bangladesh 3-1.
The championship was being hosted in India for the very first time at Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri. The Indian team has been giving stellar performances right from the beginning of the Championship. By the end of the championship, India had won eighteen matches and drawn one, being undefeated throughout.
Wednesday’s match saw India sweep the cup from Bangladesh. The first goal of the finals came from India in the 12th minute. Striker Dangmei Grace scored a goal from close range, setting a pace for the rest of the game. In the first 20 minutes, India had four corners under its belt. Bala Devi and Grace were instrumental in ensuring a strong play in the first half for the Indian Team. In the 17th minute, with an assist from Bala Devi, Kamala Devi almost doubled the lead with a header but it narrowly missed the goal.
The Bangladesh defense was floundering in the first half. By the 40th minute, though, Bangladesh regrouped and equalized the score to a 1-1. The equalizing shot was taken by Bangladesh’s Sirat Jahan Shopna.
The Indian team came out strong in the second half. It was playing with high intensity and was on attack while Bangladesh depended on their counter-attack strategy. India got its break when Bala Devi was pushed inside the goal and the referee called for a penalty. In the 60th minute, India got its second goal. AIFF‘s player of the year, Sasmita Malik, took the penalty shot, burying the ball snugly into the goal.
Seven minutes after Malik’s goal, Indumathi Kathiresan, scored a long shot goal which led to the final score of 3-1. Sabina Akhtar, the goal-keeper for Bangladesh, misjudged the shot taken by Kathiresan, allowing India to take a massive lead. With less than 30 minutes for the game, Bangladesh could not get through the Indian defense. India continued a strong play and Bangladesh went down fighting at the end of the game.
This year has been a positive showcase of talent in the field of sports by women in the country. With women being in the centre of the Olympics, winning the Asian Champions Hockey Trophy, and the Asia Cup Cricket title among other achievements, Indian women are smashing the stereotype of women not being able to play sports.