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Dalima Chhibber Can Bend it Like Beckham, Yet Faces Questions as a Woman Footballer

Dalima Chhibber  (Photo Credit: AIFF)

Dalima Chhibber (Photo Credit: AIFF)

Dalima Chhibber and Sanju Yadav, Indian women’s football team players, spoke about sexism in sports and their tryst with it.

Dalima Chhibber and Sanju Yadav – two of the most skillful players in the Indian women’s football team, took very different routes to reach where they are today, yet their journeys were not entirely different – marked with sexism, doubts and even disdain.

“It’s quite tough for me when people question women in the game and women in football,” Chhibber, whose trademark freekicks have seen her compared to David Beckham and Lionel Messi, told News18.com.

“She’s a girl, how can she play football”, “Women’s game is boring”, “Women players are just meant for glamour” – these are some of the things one hears when the topic of women in sports arises.

Sexism is sports is a worldwide issue – women sportsperson around the world have to deal with being called incompetent and not up to the standards of men.

Yet Serena Williams has more Grand Slam titles than Roger Federer and Brazilian footballer Marta has won FIFA World Player of the Year for five consecutive years from 2006 to 2010 – an achievement unmatched by any man.

“I would say the people who question the women’s game are the people who haven’t really seen women in sports perform. That is the reason women’s game comes under question because they are not aware of how well women are doing in sports and what kind of potential they have,” Dalima said.


Sanju started playing football in 2008 in her school. (Photo Credit: AIFF)

While Dalima is from Delhi and was coached by her father as a young girl, Sanju Yadav had to deal with skeptic remarks of her village people to be where she is today.

“When I started playing football, it was difficult because the villagers didn’t let us play much, saying she’s a girl and how will she go out, a lot used to be said but my parents supported me and I could play,” Sanju told News18.com.

“People used to say to my parents that’s she a girl, what she will do (by playing football) and keep her at home. They used to say she’ll go out then what will people say and stuff like that. But my parents were very supportive,” Sanju added.

Sanju, who comes from Alakhpura village of Bhiwani district in Haryana, has made a long journey to the Indian football team.

Recently, at the SAFF Women’s Championship, which India won for the fifth straight year, Sanju was a menace on the wings. Her speed and her precision crossing troubled all defences and she said she wants to keep doing better.

“I played well in SAFF but I try to get better every time and I am trying to do better here (AFC Olympic qualifiers) so our team can qualify. I have worked very hard on my speed since the beginning which is why I’m fast. I’ve even worked a lot on my crossing, on my own and also with the coach,” Sanju said.


While Sanju won plaudits for her wing play, Dalima grabbed eyeballs for her sensational free kick goals. Against Nepal in the final of SAFF Women’s Championship, Dalima opened India’s scoring with a perfect free kick from 30 yards out.

“There is no secret behind the free kicks. All it took me to perfect them now is a lot of practice, a lot and a lot of practice that has gone behind those long rangers. When I was young and my father was coaching me, he always made sure that I was practicing my shoots from all the different ranges and angles. He always made sure that I was able to take shoots from any angle and put them in the frame,” Dalima shared.

Yet, last year Dalima had said at a FICCI conference that women footballers can’t see a future in football. “We as women footballers are still not able to see a future in football. We can’t think of making a career out of football like men do,” Dalima had said.

Dalima still feels people need to follow women sportspersons to actually understand the quality they bring to any sport.

“Not only football but in every other sport in our country, women are questioned and it’s tough because as a player and woman I am involved in a sport and I work really hard to bring up the sport, especially for women to get encouraged and for more and more young girls to take up the sport,” Dalima expressed.

Dalima did make it a point to mention that things are getting better now in India in terms of the attention and opportunities they receive.

“The game is getting better towards women in terms of us getting the attention especially from higher authorities. The women’s team has been given so much exposure recently. For three months we’ve been training continuously and the federation (AIFF) has put in a lot of effort for us. I guess that’s all we need. The opportunities we are getting as women footballers in India are now better.”

Dalima and Sanju are currently playing for India in the AFC Olympic qualifiers, where the team has won has won its first two matches.