India captain Ashalata Devi feels women's football in the country has come a long way forward where they can compete against "high-profile opponents".
Thirty women footballers have been called up for a national camp that began from Tuesday in Goa. This is the first senior national women's camp after coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The centre-back also feels their performance has improved because of the exposure matches in recent times that the All India Football Federation has arranged to help the team.
"In the last 2-3 years, we have played a lot of exposure matches. When we went to Spain for the COTIF Cup, we played against some high-profile opponents. Playing those high-intensity games have helped us elevate our performance in recent times," Ashalata said on AIFF TV.
🗣️ @AshalataDevi4: We get to play a lot of exposure matches now, especially against quality European opposition. That is the intensity of matches that has really helped us grow 🙌#BackTheBlue 💙 #ShePower 👧 #IndianFootballForwardTogether 💪 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/gJbqPs1WFq — Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) December 2, 2020
She mentioned the importance of strength and conditioning training, which have been added to the regime of late by head coach Maymol Rocky. She highlighted the immediate impact of video analysis, which has also been introduced by Maymol.
"Firstly, we did not know the importance of strength training but now we understand it. Maymol ma'am has introduced things like strength training, injury prevention programs, video analysis and a lot more to help us gauge our mistakes and work on them to move forward together," Ashalata stated.
"Even during the lockdown, every one of us has stuck to the diet plan and fitness regime that has been provided to us. Once the camp resumes, I hope everyone will be fit enough to get one's game on," she added.
The 27-year-old lamented that there are places in the country where people are unaware of women's football. Back-to-back multi-national women's football tournaments (like FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and AFC Women's Asian Cup, both of which are set to be held in 2022) will increase the interest in women's football.
"The FIFA U-17 World Cup and the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 2022 will help people know about women's football in India. It will help them recognise the effort AIFF has put in to take women's football forward together," said Ashalata.