New Delhi: Former India international, Oinam Bembem Devi, who had been conferred the prestigious Arjuna award on Tuesday, by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, dedicated her award “to every women in the country.”
Bembem confessed that she went “speechless” and her heart started “throbbing very fast,” as tears of joy rolled down her cheeks, when the news of her achievement was given to her by the AIFF.
Calling the Arjuna award the highest recognition for a sportsperson in India, she said, “I have heard about the Arjuna Award. No sportsperson ever plays for any recognition but at times, it can be so satisfying. My sacrifice over the past two decades has not gone waste.”
Bembem made her debut for the Indian national team at the age of 15, in the year 1995 and put up a record of 85 appearances for the senior women’s national football team and scored 32 goals. She dedicated her award to all the hardworking women in the country, who overcome hurdles everyday of their life.
“I dedicate this to all the women in the country who overcome hurdles every day in the sociological context to excel in their respective fields. This award is for all of them as much it is for my mom, all my teammates and coaches.”
After impressive displays with the ball at the 1996 Asian Games and the 1997 AFC Cup, Devi was made the captain of the Indian national team. Having, led the country to victories at the 2010 Asian Games and the 2012 SAFF Women’s Championships, the 37-year old bid adieu to international football in 2016, with a victory in the 2016 South Asian Games.
She also thanked the All India Football Federation, for all their support and for bestowing her with the honour. “I am not sure if this has ever happened in Indian football ever. Thank you AIFF for giving me the honour,” she said in an emotional tone.
The two times AIFF Woman of the year (2001 & 2013) laid her emphasis on more women participating in the game. “Feel my Award will encourage parents to send the girl child to play Football as now they understand that you can win an Arjuna Award by playing Women’s Football in India”, she said.
Oinam, has always been closely associated with AIFF, in spreading awareness about women’s football in India, urged people to parcipate more in the field of sports. “Follow your dream and always believe in yourself. There is no alternate to hard work. Aim for the sky and you will achieve it,” she concluded.