Image Credits: Gokulam Kerala
Bursting through the ranks at Indian Women’s football scene is a 17-year-old, Manisha Kalyan, who already touted as the next big thing and she did not disappoint.
Manisha is a woman who works hard and plays hard. The 17-year-old has been a revelation for Gokulam Kerala this term, scoring four goals in five appearances for the IWL outfit. Growing up in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, Manisha picked up the sport in her school and made great strides in a very short time. She credits a lot of her skills to the coaches who helped her improve throughout her career so far.
Manisha, who is also an ardent fan of Lionel Messi works hard to emulate his skills on the pitch. “Growing up, Lionel Messi was the player I looked up to. I have admired Messi for his scintillating dribbling skills, goalscoring ability and his incredible passing technique. He is a bit of role model for me. I have never seen anybody like him. And I doubt I’ll see it again anytime soon,” she said.
On being asked about the environment in Kerala, she said, “It’s fantastic to play for Gokulam Kerala. The environment here is so professional and Gokulam are a big club. We are treated as real professionals here in Kerala. It’s fantastic to be able to play for Gokulam Kerala Women’s Team.”
Women’s football in this country has never been able to draw from such a vast talent pool; one of the most exciting Indian talents for her age, Manisha has played as an attacking midfielder and scored five goals – hat-trick against defending champions Rising Student’s Club, match winning goal against FC Alakhpura – as the young Malabarians bowed out in the semi-final stage of the Indian Women’s League following 2-4 defeat against Manipur Police. While she was understandably frustrated with the defeat but delighted to get on the scoresheet and gained some valuable experience. She says that setbacks are part of the learning experiences, not defeats.
The Punjabi girl is a terrier of a central midfield, driving forwards with purpose and then working tirelessly to defend or win the ball back. She has shown some real quality that many were not sure she possessed, at just 17 years of age she has shown some real team leading abilites and by her own admission has played a lot more than she was ready for. She made her national team debut against Hong Kong in January 2019 and was the youngest member of the team at the 2019 SAFF Championship which was held in Nepal.
Manisha claims her love for the game and the desire to become better at it as her motivation to train hard and remain focused. On being asked on what’s the best match she played, Manisha replies that the recent SAFF Championship game against Bangladesh was her best match. And when asked – “The Indian Women’s football team seems to keep growing as well as the popularity of the national side, how much do you notice the changes from inside the game?” She responded by saying, “I think the Indian Women’s League will continue to keep growing. I hope that one day in the future the IWL will be as big as the men’s game and hopefully with the increase of interest from younger children and schools this will be possible in the years to come.” Manisha is a right-footed central midfielder, but can also play as an attacking midfielder. According to her age, Manisha should be playing with the under-17 teams. However, she was always ahead of her age group. Getting minutes in the National senior team, she has proven she can play at a much higher level. For her, it is a question of when rather than if she will become a great player. Now, all that remains to be seen is just how great she can be.
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