Image Credits: FISTO STAFF
Coming from a very small village to the goal of playing at the Indian Women’s League, this journey of Malavika has seen many rough and top notch pitches both in football and in life, but she has stood tall, unwavered!
How did you learn to play football? How old were you? Who were your biggest influences?
My journey of football started when I came to St.Mary’s Hr.Sec.School, A.N.Mangalam, Salem. One of my senior was a part of the football team. Her name was Suhasini, her playing style influenced me to take up football as a career. I eventually joined in my school girls’ team which competed regularly and things progressed from there. My uncle, who is a fencing coach, has always been my greatest support; I can say he has supported me even more than my parents. For once, my parents may have objected anything, but he has always been there and supported me in doing everything! He always instills positive thoughts within me, even when I play bad he always said that I was good so it was not my fault, he has never demotivated me!
How was women’s football perceived in Salem when you started playing? Has it changed now?
When I started playing football, there were not too many people aware of women's football. They thought that we were playing football for fun. Since last few years, the women’s football in particular garnered attention to the wider audience and people here in Salem have started watching and following women's football. This is a good sign for the growth of women's football in Salem. After I got selected in the national camp, people started recognizing me and other players too. I see more and more people will be interested in women’s football and I truly believe that women’s football is just going to get bigger and bigger.
When you first started, where could you play? When did you first play a formal game? What was the women’s football scene like back when you first got involved?
Back in my native, the place where I stayed was surrounded by forest and the only economy that thrived there was TASMAC's. I had to travel a long distance for my school and by the time I came back home after my football practice, it was very late at night. My family members were clearly unhappy at that point of time due to my late arrival everyday after my practice sessions. But gradually as my hard work started to payoff and I started winning more medals and laurels for my school team and other places, things got under control and everyone started showing their support and praised me for my hard work and determination towards the game.
Do you have a favorite football player that you like to watch?
Raphael Augusto – he makes football look so simple, you can always expect something is going to happen when he got the ball on his feet. Dribbling past two-three players was such an art that he made look so easy in respect to Indian football. His game awareness and the passing precisions while assists were simply out of this world, which influenced me majorly and that was when I looked upon it as something serious enough to pursue it as my career.
How would you describe your style of play? For example you looked sharp moving forward, is pushing up the pitch and having a go on goal something we can expect to see from you?
I regard midfield as a very versatile position in the game, where most of the players playing in that spot are responsible for both attack and defense and also for holding the shape of the team during matches. So, in that kind of demanding position, I need to develop a game where I can do both and shine as an individual on the pitch. My eye for the goal is always very consistent and I try mostly creating chances but if am free from defenders and get the ball outside the box, I may as well go for goal.
How do you feel last season went for the club?
Last season, we have made it to the semi-final of the IWL but we faltered against a strong Manipur side. One of the reasons of the defeat was that there was not much of combination with the senior players but we have grown much in the space of 12 months. We are much more confident now, with new signings and want to win the title.
Tell us a little bit about your new team-mates?
We have a very experienced starting eleven and a bench consisting of some incredibly talented fresh legs on which we can bank upon in adversities. Our main aim is to develop a strong buildup style of football and we are also working on pin point attacking techniques and drills. The girls are all pumped up for the season ahead and we are all waiting for the kickoff of the Hero IWL.
What has been the biggest challenge for you this season?
I think the biggest challenge I am facing as an individual on the pitch is getting used to the defensive role and understand the possible areas from where the goal scoring threats can show up. This is the first time my coach has demanded for a different role this season which demands a lot of my seriousness on the pitch and also dedication towards my new position. It is something I am totally unaware of and haven’t done it in my previous seasons or playing positions. So I am currently trying to adapt my game according to the defensive duties I am assigned and concentrating also on covering and other technical sides of defense.
One personal goal you are looking forward to at the end of this year.
The call for the national camp is something which every player dreams of for one day and the most deserving are picked up every year. This year I hope I can break my shackles and sneak into that spot for the national camp which will be of immense satisfaction on my part as well as to my nearest and dearest ones.