Image Credits: FISTO STAFF
It was a great privilege to get to know one of the most promising young talents in women’s football today and to explore her incredible career to date in more detail.
The 20-year-old striker-turned-left-winger recently has been standing out in the Indian Women’s League and in the Indian Nationals team. Basking in finest year of 2019, Sandhiya grabbed her first National team goal against Levante in the COTIF Cup, Spain. And it is evident from her performances that there is a highly successful football career waiting for her if she keeps at it the same way.
To start off, tell us a bit about your early years. What got you started playing football, and what were the first memorable kicks/goals that come to mind?
My passion for football started at a very young age, thanks to my school hostel in Cuddalore. I used to attend every match our school used to play, and then one day, I decided to give it a try. From there onwards, I have developed huge passion for the game and started playing football regularly. When I was studying 7, my dedication to football was rewarded when I was selected to play under Coach Mariappan. He was very much supportive in the process till now which helped me to learn the sport in a professional manner. SDAT, Namakkal from 11th grade and St.Joseph College, Cuddalore is the first time that I have been part of a team and it has taught me a lot about team spirit, sportsmanship spirit, and the grit involved in playing a match. I have found many people I look up to and feel inspired by, both on and off the pitch.
How has women’s football progressed since you first started playing and how do you think it can improve further?
The progression is huge and it can only go further! When I started playing, I did not have any feminine role model, I did not know that I could be a professional footballer, I did not know there will be a women's league. Now we see thousands of girls choosing football, we read about our game in the newspapers. The conditions are better and that is precisely the way to improve, with the commitment of clubs and federations, with more space in the media that makes us reach more people and helps us change the mentality of society. More and more people will be interested in women’s football and soon it will be able to live on what it generates.
What persuaded you to try and make it as a professional footballer?
My parents – Vasanthi and Ranganathan since I’ve been young they noticed how good I was, they have always encouraged and supported me with my football. My father has always tried his best to make sure I was able to do the things which I loved; Football was one of them. And my coach Mariappan sir, he gave me the confidence to be brilliant and fulfill my potential as a footballer - to stand out from the rest, whether the feedback was positive or negative this helped me get to where I am today.
You started your IWL career at Indira Gandhi Sports and Education Academy, Pondicherry. How do would you describe that experience?
Pondicherry has been like a family for me: A group of young girls with whom I created a very strong bond, which then would transform itself into positive results on the pitch. Also, it has been an experience where I enjoyed playing football with enthusiasm and without much pressure but always with the professional attitude, despite the young age. Without doubt, it paved my way to greater things.'
How would you describe your time under the coaching of Coach Mariappan Sir?
I have worked with a very good coach, Mariappan, he gave me the confidence that I needed to go out there and play my game which now helps me during the hard times when I was receiving rough treatment from the opposition. It’s made me much stronger today. I am always looking to get on the ball as I’m not afraid of getting the ball and taking players on.
Did you have any sporting heroes growing up? Someone you looked up to?
I admire Cristiano Ronaldo, I love his personality, what he do in the football pitch and the way he play but I’m trying to be inspirational by myself, I don’t think you should look at someone, you need to be yourself. I need to be Sandhiya, you need to be yourself and you need to have your motivation I think.
Tell us a bit about your experience at the National Camp?
Since 2018, I have been a regular part of the national camp. I have learned and unlearned so many things. At initially, I struggled with the language of Hindi, but over the period I have overcome that difficulty and I can strike a better chord now in the language.
You’re a winger - what’s the first thing that comes to your mind as soon as you get the ball?
First thing that comes to mind is I will think about what is happening around me. I am a player who likes to create a goal-scoring opportunity or start off attacking moves i.e. If my team-mate is in a good position I will try my best to make sure that I pass them the ball to give them the best chance of scoring.
What you think about Sethu FC’s chances of winning the IWL this season?
My ambition always led to me to greater things. Sethu FC was the ideal place where to tick off my objectives, and in fact it did. I was excited when I received the call from Sethu FC. I liked the way the approached me with the aim of winning the IWL. Also, I liked the fact of playing with National senior’s footballers and thought I could learn couple of things from them. And our playing style is unique and successful as we place a lot of emphasis on the basics and on technique. We work very hard on play with couple of touches, nothing sort of unwanted dribbling involved and coach intensively in these areas. Playing in such a squad requires lot of dedication and commitments.
What’s the team’s objective this season?
The team's objective is, for sure, to win the Hero Indian Women’s League, despite being drawn alongside a strong Manipur Side. But this time, we have more than enough to win it. Anything can happen - we are Sethu FC after all!
What are your aims? Short term? Long term?
My short term goals: I want to make sure I have best performance of my life in the tournament. My long term goals: I’ll work towards becoming a recognised Indian women’s footballer that plays at the highest level, playing for clubs and winning trophies.