NEW DELHI, Aug 22: Oinam Bembem Devi, the flagbearer of Indian women�s football for over two decades, today dedicated her Arjuna Award to women of the country who are trying to break the stereotypes.
The 37-year-old Bembem Devi retired from international football last year during the South Asian Games in Shillong, having represented India in 85 games and scoring 32 goals.
�I dedicate this to all the women in the country who overcome hurdles every day in the sociological context to excel in their respective fields. This award is for all of them as much it is for my mom, all my teammates and coaches.
�I also need to thank AIFF for the continuous support,� Bembem Devi was quoted as saying to www.the-aiff.com.
Bembem Devi made her international debut in 1995 and is closely associated with All India Football Federation (AIFF) for spreading awareness about women�s football in India.
Asked how much her Arjuna recognition would help to enhance the women�s game in the country, the Manipuri said, �As I said, there are sociological obstacles in India which sometimes disallow girls to play football.
�I feel my award will encourage parents to send the girl child to play football as now they understand that you can win an Arjuna Award by playing women�s football in India.�
Bembem Devi, who once took back her retirement, eventually bowed out on a high after winning the SAF Games gold medal in Shillong in February 2016.
�After my initial retirement, I was floored when AIFF called me up and requested me to take back my retirement. �You deserve a better farewell� I was told.
�I wasn�t sure, but they insisted. It eventually came when we won the SAF Games gold medal before a packed house in Shillong. I am not sure if this has ever happened in Indian football ever. Thank you AIFF for giving me the honour,� an emotional Bembem Devi said.
Talking further about the Arjuna Award, she said, �It is one of the highest recognitions for any sportsperson in India. Right from childhood I have heard about the Arjuna Award.
�No sportsperson ever plays for any recognition but at times, it can be so satisfying. My sacrifice over the past two decades has not gone waste.�
Asked if she had any message for the girls, Bembem Devi said, �Follow your dream and always believe in yourself. There is no alternate to hard work. Aim for the sky and you will achieve it.� � PTI
National Sports Award winners
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Devendra (Para Athlete), Sardar Singh (Hockey).
Dronacharya Awards: Late Dr R Gandhi (Athletics), Heera Nand Kataria (Kabaddi), GSSV Prasad (Badminton, Lifetime), Brij Bhushan Mohanty (Boxing, Lifetime), PA Raphel (Hockey, Lifetime), Sanjoy Chakraverthy (Shooting, Lifetime), Roshan Lal (Wrestling, Lifetime).
Arjuna Awards: VJ Surekha (Archery), Khushbir Kaur (Athletics), Arokia Rajiv (Athletics), Prasanthi Singh (Basketball), Laishram Debendro Singh (Boxing), Cheteshwar Pujara (Cricket), Harmanpreet Kaur (Cricket), Oinam Bembem Devi (Football), SSP Chawrasia (Golf), SV Sunil (Hockey), Jasvir Singh (Kabaddi), PN Prakash (Shooting), A Amalraj (Table Tennis), Saketh Myneni (Tennis), Satyawart Kadian (Wrestling), Mariyappan (Para-Athlete), Varun Singh Bhati (Para-Athlete), according to PIB.