Mumbai, Jan. 22: As the Indian women began their AFC Women's Asian Cup campaign with a stalemate against IR Iran at the DY Patil in Mumbai, there was one Blue Tigress, who etched a little landmark in her career so far - goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan, who marked her 50th International game for India with a clean sheet.
In this candid chat with AIFF, Aditi opens up about her achievement, her journey, the current mindset in the team, her struggles along the way, and much more.
50 International matches: Did you ever think you'd get this far?
You never really think of such things. Of course, as a young girl, I've always dreamt of wearing the India jersey. Putting on the India jersey has been special every time. But doing it consistently for years is a privilege for which I feel very fortunate.
The mood in the camp?
There's belief amongst all. All the girls are mentally very strong.
What has been your learning all these years?
There have been a lot of ups and downs, smiles and tears in all these years. But what I've learnt is that there is absolutely no substitute for hard work. I've tried to take all the criticism in my stride and I'm grateful for every bit of success that has come my way.
How did your parents react, when you initially started playing football as a kid?
My parents were initially concerned about me playing football. There was nobody (girls) around me who I knew was playing football, or made it their profession. We didn't know what the future was like. Obviously, my parents were concerned about the physical safety in a contact sport. It is also quite physically and mentally demanding. There's also the other perspective of facing society as a girl playing sports. I guess I also understand why they were also a little apprehensive initially when I told them that I like to play football.
How did you eventually convince them?
It wasn't my convincing them with words, but I guess when they discovered my passion, and love for the game which I had - it convinced them. I guess one of the main turning points was when I got my first India call-up -- that made them really proud. My dad is in the CRPF, he's worked all his life for the nation. So when I got that India badge, that really changed his perception.
Talk us through the sacrifices over the years.
As professional footballers, there are a lot of sacrifices that we have to make. Being away from your family, having to constantly monitor your own body, and looking after yourself is really hard. I think being away from your family and loved ones, not being able to do the regular things in life, takes a lot from you.
But wearing the India jersey, being able to represent a country of 1.4 billion makes it all worthwhile. This is what has kept us motivated, and kept us going all this while. I feel grateful for every opportunity that I get to play for my country, and I don't take that granted.