Image Credits: FISTO STAFF
The player who has redefined consistency on the pitch with an impressive performance for the national team throughout her career, meet the next-gen rousing midfielder Ratanbala Devi who is aiming to keep her records intact for Sethu FC in the Indian Women’s League.
Can you elaborate a little about your past and what made you get into football?
I started playing football somewhere around 2009 at our native, where we had a small patch of land and I used to play with other boys because not all girls were into playing football. However, my family was extremely supportive towards my football career and no one even for one day said anything negative subjecting to football or its impact on my life. My first representation for India was for the Under-13 squad, and from that start I was quite consistent with my performance and now I play for the senior team, finally my dream has come true.
What was the scene of women’s football in Manipur when you started playing?
Women’s football in Manipur was always something much supported and people had good notions about it, but no one had a clear idea that where it can lead to or what positive impacts it had. But after our state produced some of the finest talents for the country with both male and female footballers, people are now more open to female football here and actually love it. The inclusion of new football leagues for women in India are also contributing to the knowledge of women’s football to the common mass which according to me is progressive and this is how we can make it more famous and followed.
This season IWL looks quite different from what we have seen in the past. What factors do you think is contributing to this?
One of the most important points for this season is the increment in the number of teams participating in the league. This season, most of the clubs have got two or three national team players, who are a powerhouse of experience and skills. All the clubs, I think have their own strategies towards the tournament and all will have their own approach to the games. It will be important on our part to closely analyze each and every team and have a brief summary about their strengths and deficits.
Is there any specific coach or person who has been always inspiring you to play football or who has been a constant guide to your career from a very young age?
I would like to mention one of the very first influencers in my life who was no coach or player, but just a referee. His name is Bocha, he helped me to build confidence and understanding the fact that I can actually take football as a career option. Next whom I would like to mention is Chaoba Devi maa’m who has been such an inspiration for so many female footballers from Manipur. Apart from them, the training I received in Sports Authority of India (SAI) was really beneficial to me and it also helped me to understand the technical side of the game.
Where do you see Sethu FC finishing in IWL?
I believe Sethu FC got the most number of national stars and also a couple of international signings from Nepal which definitely adds up to the strength of the squad for this season. With the combination of so many stars and experience in our squad, we have a clear chance of winning the IWL this time. We players are pushing for it and our coaches are backing us up immensely, so I think this season it’s going to be ours.
Being a midfielder you must be prone to a lot of injuries on the pitch from harsh plays or tackles, how do you prepare to face that side of the game?
I personally have been injured a lot of times owing to harsh plays and tackles, but I do not take my lessons from it as I know if there is a tackle coming, then there will also be a chance of scoring. I never took injuries too seriously as, if you think about it too much then that can have a reflection to your game on the pitch. The more I think, the more I’ll get into its fear, so I prefer not to bait an eye on it and try to play my natural game on the pitch. I regard every chance as do or die and that is how I approach towards the game, if am getting injured due to that, I don’t have a problem with it.
Which team according to you can give a tough time to you and your fellow players in the IWL?
I think the first match against Manipur Police SC will be very crucial according to me they are the best team I know about in the IWL. Their team is backed up by a host of very experienced players and support staff. All of their players are extremely professional and have a clean understanding of the game. Breaking through their defense line is going to be a bit tough I guess, but we are preparing to face them as well and know where they can go wrong. So maybe we will have the last laugh!
What are your hobbies apart from football?
Apart from football, I like dancing and listening to music. Hanging out with friends is also one of my most favourite pass times.
Where do you see yourself going from the end of this tournament and what will be your outcome from Sethu FC?
After joining Sethu FC, I am getting a closer experience to what IWL is going to be this year. With so many new teams in along with so many new players I feel to perform even better than what I did last season. Sethu is always working for the betterment of its players and they always try to keep us motivated and pumped up. So I can say, Sethu is already influencing my training sessions and my performance on the pitch. I hope after the end of the season there will be lot of new opportunities coming for me where I will be able to put the experience I will be having from Sethu.
What is the key to communication playing for such a diverse team?
Footballers have a different level of understanding when they are on the pitch which does not need any definite language or communication. The vibe is so strong generally inside a team that we understand what my partner on the pitch wants from me or what kind of ball she is expecting. When we are a team we are one therefore language does not bother me, you know maybe a hand signal can be more meaningful than a sentence inside a football match. Thus, none of us stress about communications too much.
Best attacking trio according to you in the world. Cristiano Ronalo, Lionel Messi and Martha
Favourite team International: India Club: Barcelona If not footballer then: Boxer.