Image Credits: FISTO STAFF
Indian Women’s football team midfielder Sumithra on move to Sethu FC, her role model growing up and overcoming injury nighmare and more.
Sumithra has a M.Phil degree from Thiruvalluvar University, Vellore and is also an integral cog to the Indian women’s national team. Social and financial problems didn’t succeed in bringing down this determined footballer as she paved her way from the Pondicherry women’s team to the National team. She is now looking forward to the third edition of the Hero Indian Women’s League 2019. The Sethu FC midfielder has fallen in love with this game since she was young and has never got tired of testing herself at new heights. Sumithra has been involved several international tournaments, such as the SAFF Championship and AFC Olympic Qualifiers.
Excerpts from the interview
Can you elaborate a little about your past and what made you get into football?
It all started when I first went to the Government Girls Higher Secondary School at Cuddalore Port, I was studying in Seventh standard and I was in desire of being a professional athlete but I eventually switched to kicking football when my P.E. Teacher Mariappan asked me to try football. Mariappan, who was the football coach, took me under his wing and helped me gain a lot of key skills. After that I never stopped playing really – it's been more than 13 years now! Mariappan sir was also involved in the progress and growth of a number of orphan girls who lost their parents in 2004 Tsunami devastation. He provided all sorts of support for their education, healthcare and overall development in Government Children’s Home (orphanage) Cuddalore. I have been lucky enough to keep that atmosphere my whole playing career and have kept in touch with a lot of people I started with. I also attended couple of summer camps, played district level tournaments. One of the first comes to my mind right now is against a strong Neyveli’s NLC team. Though we lost the match, but it was the motive of winning more games made me fall in love with the game and playing more. In 2009, I was selected for my first international exposure for India U-14 and in 2011-12 played for the U-16 and has been part of the Senior National squad ever since then.
Did playing other sports help improve your skills as a Football player?
Growing up I was doing Athletics, that helped me a lot as I was running around and getting fit. To this day I feel Athletics has helped me a lot and so I am a very fit player.
Who have been some of your pioneering supporters over the years?
My mum has always supported me through thick and thin, despite losing my father when I was two years old, she struggled a lot taking care of the children and she was a daily labour, earning meager amount but she always encouraged me to play football, she always pushed me to keep going and told me to stick at it and I’m so glad she did.
How important is the role of a midfielder in a team?
The role of a midfielder is actually very crucial in the team as you can then contribute in various areas. There are days when you do not perform well in attack, so that day you can contribute a lot more in defence. I am one of the players, always vying to attack, tackle, little effect in defence and contribute greatly for the team.
How would you describe your playing style, and which football player would you compare it to?
I am someone who likes to take some time, spend some time understanding the game properly and then deciding where to pass the ball and how to proceed and build the attack. I like to play with simple one-two touches and penetration of passes, but I would not really call myself an aggressive player but certainly when I defend! I grew up love watching Iniesta play, especially in the 2010 World Cup, he was such a composed footballer, the way he carried the ball out from the midfield to forward line was something not many could do these days. I would like to think that I too like carrying the ball out from the midfield and being composed on the ball as a midfielder, although I’m not comparing myself to Iniesta!
How’s the experience of playing in Tamil Nadu and where do you see Sethu FC finishing in IWL?
This is my first time playing for the Tamil Nadu team, we have only seen them as an opponent but now I am quite enjoying my time here. All of the players have come from different backgrounds. It’s definitely another challenging experience for me, but I want to give my best for this season as this year the tournament is held in a larger scale and the competition is also fierce. Our team combination is just right. Attack and defence are both clicking for us at the moment, which is a good thing. We have that confidence to win the IWL title now.
Did you face any obstacles along the way, ever think you weren’t going to make it to where you are now and if so how did you get past the obstacles?
The biggest obstacle was when I injured my ankle. I was out for 5 months and it was very frustrating, I missed some important matches and a lot of football. Bouncing back after each injury is hard and I ensure I work harder after each injury. After coming from surgery, some people doubted me that could not play at the highest level possible and many thinks that my level of form has dropped a bit but I want prove it on the pitch and show that I can still compete and deliver playing at the highest level in the IWL.
Will the standard of Indian Women’s football (internationally) improve soon or?
It has improved so much the past 2 years now, a lot of younger players are getting a chance to play and are doing very well, the recent success in the SAFF Cup showed everyone that we are getting better. India will only improve more!
Tell us more about playing with the India U-14 and U-19 national team's a few years ago, what did you gain from these experiences?
It was a fantastic experience, being able to represent your country at any age is a privilege and one I’m very grateful for. I was lucky enough to be a part of the SAFF Cup team and Olympic Qualifiers although we didn’t make the qualifiers it was still a honour to represent the country in the qualifiers.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I want to, at the end of my career, be able to look back with no regrets, have many memories to share.
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