Bengaluru: Gokulam Kerala FC are eyeing their first title in the Indian Women's League (IWL) but their 24-year-old winger Kashmina Devi is dreaming of a second time when she would lay her hands on the trophy. The IWL has seen three different winners in three seasons and the 2019-20 season is on the cusp of welcoming a new winner once more as Gokulam lock horns with Kryphsa FC in the final at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Friday, February 14.
Kashmina, back in 2017, was an integral member of the Manipuri outfit Eastern Sporting Union, led by Padma Shri Bembem Devi, which went on to beat Rising Students in the final to win the inagural title on February 14. Exactly three years later, she will hit the ground once again to try and repeat the feat.
"Three years back, I hardly had any experience of playing against senior players but Bem di (Bembem Devi) got me in her team and eventually, I ended up being part of the winning side. It was something which I can never forget and I'll always thank Bem di for believing in me," an exuberant Kashmina told www.the-aiff.com after Gokulam Kerala registered a 3-0 victory over defending champions Sethu FC on Monday.
"Since 14-02-2017, I have traversed a long way as a player and have made my debut for the Indian national team too, which was nothing short of a dream-come-true moment for me. It has been an exciting journey so far and hopefully, 14-02-2020 will add another glorious chapter to it," Kashmina sounded optimistic.
"MY FATHER IGNITED MY ZEAL"
Mohd. Kashim Ali, a budding footballer who had dreamt of playing the beautiful game professionally, had to compromise owing to circumstances. But, he never let go of that dream and lives it through his daughter, Kashmina.
"My father played in school and university-level but he dreamt bigger. He started to take me to the field and even today, he follows my game. He was my first coach and he ignited my zeal," Kashmina informed, "My chhota bhai (younger brother) also plays football, he is a goalkeeper."
After playing her trade within Manipur, Kashmina finally got the breakthrough when she travelled to Delhi to play in Subroto Cup in 2012.
"After playing within Manipur, it was time to appear for the bigger test and Subroto Cup was the perfect platform. Luckily, I got selected and we went to Delhi. It was a learning experience for me that helped me a lot," Kashmina added.
"FEEL PRIVILEGED WEARING THE TRICOLOUR"
Kashmina first got into the national team when she was handpicked for the AFC U19 Championship 2017 qualifiers, where she scored the opening goal against Iran in the first match.
"Yes, that was a terrific experience. I suddenly found myself in front of the goal and only the goalkeeper to beat. Although the match ended in a draw, it gave us major motivation for the upcoming matches," she said.
One year later, she was handed her senior national team debut by head coach Maymol Rocky against Uzbekistan during AFC Women's Asian Cup 2018 qualifiers in Pyongyang on April 7, 2017.
"I never dreamt of playing for India in my wildest dream. It was a privilege to wear the tricolour on my chest. Bala (Devi), Sasmita (Malik), Ashalata (Devi) were renowned names and sharing the pitch alongside them was something which I could never dream of," an emotional Kashmina recounted.
"COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS"
Kashmina, along with the likes of Grace, Promeshwori, Kamala have hit the right chord at the right time and their coordination along with attacking spearhead Sabitra 'Samba' Bhandari has been reaping benefits since the starting of the ongoing IWL campaign.
On being asked the secrets of their success, she credited "communication and constant sharing of ideas on the pitch" for success.
"All of us are comfortable in Hindi and we never shy away from sharing our ideas on the pitch. Communication is the key to success for any team and we are no different," Kashmina prompted.
The Malabarians have scored 31 goals in six matches until now, having conceded only 2 goals so far.