After unboxing the presents from their respective ‘Secret Santas,’ it’s business as usual for the Blue Tigresses, who are currently camping in Kochi, Kerala as they prepare for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which is now less than a month away.
Christmas served as a little break for the young women who also had a fun activity of secretly gifting presents to each other, and then finding out who their ‘Santas’ were.
Back on the ground after the festivities, the training sessions for the team under head coach Thomas Dennerby are rigorous indeed, with the team having two sessions every day – in the morning and evening. While the rigours of the sessions do tend to take a toll, the medical staff of the team works tirelessly to get the players up and running for every session that they undergo.
“It’s important to let your hair down on occasions. But we all realise the importance of the situation we are in. We are preparing for the Asian Cup, and now that a couple of fun activities of Christmas are over, we are ready to get back to work,” says captain Ashalata Devi, as a limping Ranjana Chanu passes by with ice-packs strapped to her legs.
“It’s nothing,” bellows back with a smile, when asked about what happened. “Such minor niggles keep happening to us all. I’ll be fine by tomorrow. We are footballers, it’s part and parcel of our lives.”
Indeed, the fullback is seen sprinting up and down the flanks the very next morning at training.
The team has been in camp for the last six months in their preparation for the continental tournament, between which, they have also played nine friendly matches across four different nations. In fact, the women have already been to 6 countries in 2021 for exposure tours.
Sanju Yadav is one of the first to spare no time to squeeze a few gym sessions into her already packed schedule.
Even with two training sessions a day, the 24-year-old from Alakhpura, Haryana is seen doing a few weights or cycling in the gym at the team hotel.
“I’ve always had the habit of squeezing in some gym time, but that has increased ever since I recovered from my ACL injury last year,” Sanju informed. “As a player, you never want to suffer ligament injuries, and I want to make those areas as strong as possible.”
The 24-year-old has also had a recent shift in positions from being a winger to a wing-back, something she has had to constantly work on during the six-month camp with the Blue Tigresses.
“I have to make a lot of recovery runs, now that I am playing as a wing-back. Before, once we lost the ball I would only track back on certain occasions as instructed by the coach. Now, there is no choice. The first thing I do once we lose the ball while attacking is make a 180-degree turn and bolt back to help the others,” explained Sanju.
“It takes a lot more stamina to play this position, and those extra hours in the gym always help. Whenever we don’t have a training or recovery or rest sessions, I head to the gym and work on myself. It’s not just me, but there are plenty of others as well, who put in that extra work,” she stated.