GUWAHATI, Sept 14 - The flag-bearer of Indian women�s football for over the past two decades, Oinam Bembem Devi is now focusing on her second innings as a coach and is determined to take women�s football in the country to the next level.
Bembem, who was recently conferred with the Arjuna Award is very much happy after becoming the second woman footballer to win the prestigious award.
�It�s like a dream come true for me after all these years of hard work.�
Regarding her future plans, Bembem said: �I will be associated with football as I have already passed the AFC B license coaching course and would try to gain the A certificate soon. I am already associated with coaching and my goal is to help women�s football grow in the country.�
An integral part of the Indian women�s team from 1995 to 2016, Bembem is the only other female footballer after former national team captain Shanti Mullick to have won the Arjuna Award.
The gifted 37-year-old captained the team from 2003 and led India to victory in the 2010 South Asian Games and 2012 SAFF Championships. She bowed out on a high, winning the 2016 South Asian Games Gold Medal in Shillong.
�Retirement is something which is really hard for any player. After so many years of being in the field and all of a sudden to leave that is hard. But looking at my age and my game I had to take the decision,� Bembem said regarding her retirement.
Asked about the best phase of her career, she said: �We visited Chinese Taipei in 2001 where although we lost I believe I gave the best performance. That same year the All India Football Federation (AIFF) started with the Best Woman Football Player of the Year Awards and I went on to win it.�
She has been closely associated with AIFF for spreading awareness about women�s football in India and is actively involved as a scout and Brand Ambassador for FIFA Live Your Goals, India.
�I have had talks with the AIFF where I have asked for more friendly matches for the girls and exposure tours. The more matches one plays the better it is and I am of the opinion that training camps should be for long duration. Through the friendly matches we can improve in the rankings and that helps the team in playing against higher ranked teams.�