22nd April 2019, Biratnagar, Nepal: I was stationed on the roof of the fully packed Sahid Rangashala Stadium alongside a dozen other cameramen and reporters all vocal in their support for the home team. It was no big surprise that my reactions to the 3 goals we scored were all pretty much subdued. However when the final whistle blew, I just threw a fist pump into the air with a loud cheer and then just fell to the ground in prostration thanking the Almighty, all while the same reporters stood looking at me. The feeling when we had won the SAFF Championship 2019 with the Indian Womens Team was absolutely incredible and that moment- the way we celebrated it- pretty much sums up how emotional the 5 months had been for me as well as for the team.
I first joined the Senior Women’s Team for their AFC Olympics 1st Round Qualifiers camp that was being held in Mumbai towards the end of October 2018. The nerves of being part of a senior team setup was obviously there but the staff and the players were all very cordial and welcoming. We had very little time in the camp before we flew to Myanmar for the actual tournament, so the days in Mumbai were very hectic as the coaches constantly used the recordings of the trainings and my analysis of the 2 friendly matches we played to make several individual player corrections. At the tournament, we started off on a rather dull note with a draw against Nepal; however the team came back with a stunning win against Bangladesh and then a fighting performance against Myanmar to eventually qualify for the 2nd round for the first time in history.
The camp in preparation for the 2nd round qualifiers went on for 4 months starting from January 2019. The players that were part of this camp was a very young lot and therefore over the 4 months we had to work really work hard because most of these players were all raw and inexperienced. The team played 20 competitive games prior to the 2nd round tournament and each match helped us to evaluate and assess how the team was shaping up and at the same time, making corrections as a team as well as individually. Post almost every match, the Head Coach Maymol (Ms. Maymol Rocky) ma’am had specific requirements and I analysed the game on those aspects and after the coaches had viewed the analysis, we then conducted video sessions with the players.
The part of my work that I enjoyed doing the most during the last few months was the Opposition Analysis. We had the opportunity to play a handful of international matches against the likes of Hong Kong, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Romania, Iran, even Zvezda Perm 2005 (a Russian team participating in the Women’s UEFA Champions League) and the SAFF tournament as well. We also played a tournament in Odisha where we faced off against two of our eventual 2nd round oppositions in Nepal and Myanmar. The more information that you can provide the coaches with, the more easier it becomes for them to prepare the side for the particular opposition; so I always watched sometimes even 2 or 3 different matches of the opposition to find out their style of play, their strengths and their weaknesses. Watching every new team provides you with a new challenge and also new perceptions and ideas as well, so it was one of the most interesting part of my job in the last 4 months.
The regular use of GPS devices also played a key part during the run up to the tournament. We were using the devices regularly for all the matches we played as well as for most of the high-intensity trainings. I was responsible for transferring the data from its raw form from the devices into a meaningful report and give a few inputs for the coach to look at. What these data mainly helped for, was that the coaches could now confirm their preliminary assessments on which player might not have worked hard enough and it was easier to prove it to the players as well.
There were phases during the camp that the team faced severe setbacks- losing out in the Hero Gold Cup in Bhubaneswar and a disappointing campaign in Turkey especially dampened the confidence. However one thing that stood out was the bonding the team had even during those tough times. A few players had to go through some really tough phases after a couple of individual mistakes from their part cost the team and yet, they themselves stood up to the situation and worked hard to ensure they never let down the team in the future. Credits to all the players and the staff as they were ready to put in extra effort at any point of time; eventually it all paid off as we won the SAFF Championship 2019 in Nepal and followed it with a very strong 2nd round qualifier campaign. It is fair to say the team was a bit unlucky to have lost out on the 3rd round but in the end, the team did put up a performance of which the whole nation can be proud of.
The experience with the women’s team is one that I would cherish for my lifetime. Ma’am always gave me the freedom to share my views and suggestions regarding the matches, individual performances or the opposition and included me in most of the tactical discussions the coaches were having. This significantly helped me learn a lot tactically and contributed to growing more as an analyst. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the AIFF and SportsKPI for this amazing experience. And at the same time, I would like to thank Maymol ma’am, the assistant coach Chaoba (Ms. Chaoba Devi) Ma’am, the goalkeeping coach Roni (Ms. Ronibala Chanu) ma’am, the physios Priyanka (Bodkhe) and Shruti (Nambiar), the team manager (Rocky) and each and every player of the team for having me in the team with you.
I firmly believe Women’s Football in India is set to conquer new heights soon and I am really happy I had the opportunity to be a part of its journey to do so.
Article by – Mishal Thanveer (Senior Performance Analyst)