The story of the woman footballer who received the Arjuna Award
Oinam Bembem Devi is given the Arjuna Award and she became the first Indian female footballer to win this award in the 21st century and became the 2nd in the world to be awarded so. After she received the award she told her story to everyone. Moreover, she narrated her struggle from just imagining of playing football to receiving the Arjuna Award.
When she started to narrate her story she told that she had given her 21 years to the National Team and she feels so proud to receive this award as the Government has recognized her efforts made so far. She dedicated her award to all those women who dare to dream.
She starts her story by talking about her childhood. She said it was not easy for her in her childhood to play football as she was not allowed to do so. She used to watch the boys playing from a distance of her age, kicking and running with the ball. She used to wait for her father to leave his office as he didn’t allow her to play football and get distracted from studies. Just after father used to leave the office she used to run out to the ground and start playing with other kids of her own age group and come back by the time to her home before her father could. She even got caught and scolded by her father for the same as well. She knew that it was for her own good but she loved football way too much that she couldn’t leave. She told that she used to change her name as a boy and used to play with other kids in same age group tournaments. It has been 30 years of her beautiful journey with football till now.
She got selected for her Manipur U-13 in 1991 and this proved to be a turning point in her life. Her mother was all supportive throughout her struggle, she even used to accompany her to the local tournaments but her father didn’t support her at that time. But later when she got selected for the National team in 1995 her father started supporting her too. She told that she lost her father two years ago but she knows that if he would have been here with her at present he would have been so proud of her.
She added that her life has been full of ups and downs and now she has seen a different generation of footballers standing in front of her staring from the point where she started. In 1995 when she was new to the team, she was so afraid and felt a great pressure on her to perform. Then from 2001-2007, she had girls of her own age group joing the team and as time passed she became comfortable with them that she ended doing everything with them. Finally, from 2007 onwards she had girls joining in who were 10 years or younger than her. That moment for her was like her own life being played in front of her but with different characters.
While talking about her retirement she quoted it as funny as she to herself thought that she had retired but then she came back for the SAFF Games. After that also she made her comeback for the inaugural Indian Women’s League but this time as a player- manager.
She own a license B and now she is aiming for A as she wants her own football training centre.