Dalima Chhibber: Chose to study and play in Canada because I need to sustain myself financially while playing football
Indian women footballer Dalima Chhibber speaks on her recent career move to study and play in Canada, financial help in growing in football and why hoping for a World Cup berth in near future is a fat-fetched goal
Dalima sees Canada as an opportunity to grow on the pitch, Dalima sees completion of studies as a big support to continue playing the sport
Dalima feels playing in next Women's World football World Cup is a far-fetched reality
Dalima feels that tournaments like Subroto Cup become hugely important
She was forty yards from the goal, taking the free-kick, aiming to give India the lead at the SAFF Women's Championship 2019 against Nepal in the final. The kick was thumped so hard and precisely that it sailed into the top-left corner of the goalpost, giving no chance to the goalkeeper to stop it. You could change the opponent, change the level of the tournament and that kick would still be just as unstoppable. It displayed Dalima Chhibber's skills to the world once more. That goal gave India an edge over the opponent in scoreline and also in spirits. Eventually, India went on to win the championship.
Three months later, Dalima made a career decision, which may see many follow suit. She posted a video on Twitter, saying that she had decided to move to Canada to pursue her Masters in Sports Psychology. The move was hailed on social media, for an Indian women athlete had decided to give importance to studies.
While women's football in India is still in its infancy and needs more players like her to stick around, Dalima says that her move is to make sure she learns from abroad about football and can come back as a better player and help the national team. At the same time, her decision has a lot to do with how she can pursue her dream of playing the sport for a long period of time knowing the financial difficulties for a women player to not only grow as a footballer but even play it. Canada, as per Dalima, gives her the ground to come one-on-one with international talent and exposes her to more football.
"I will not be there with the national team but I am exposing myself to more football. I am going to a country which is known for women's football. I would not really say that I am taking a break and concentrating on studies (alone). I have got 100 percent scholarship to study there on the basis of my performance (in football). There I get to play more football with players from all around the world. And I feel I can also manage my academics. It will only help me help develop as a player," said the 21-year-old.
And while she sees Canada as an opportunity to grow on the pitch, Dalima sees the completion of her studies as a big support to continue playing the sport as well. She stressed on how money is a huge factor in women taking up the sport as it is difficult to continue playing the sport if you have nothing else to lie back on. With the women athletes all around the world fighting wage battles, Dalima said that it is a bit of an unrealistic expectation in India, mentioning that the decision to move to Canada has a lot to do with her not finding any sponsor.
She said, "Women's football, in general, is something that has started to gain a little recognition now. People are entering it. But in India, I see that as a far-fetched goal at the moment. That is the reason I chose Canada. Otherwise, I would be playing for a club. Europe is pretty expensive. I did not get enough sponsors, stakeholders to invest their money. I have not received that kind of support from people when I asked for. I can see a future as a footballer but I cannot see football sustaining me as a person. That is why I opted for Canada to play there, also complete my Masters because you need to sustain yourself financially while playing football."
'Playing in World Cup a far-fetched goal'
India are placed 57 in the current FIFA women's team rankings. With the governing body deciding to increase the number next year to 32, there is a slight hope that India may be able to play the World Cup soon. However, Dalima believes that team should aim for small-term targets, like becoming the best team in Asia first. She said that watching the Women's World cup 2019 on TV gave her the understanding of what it is like to play at that level. She said, "There is a lot I learned from watching Women's World Cup. The level of game in particular. Before this, we were not exposed to women's football of this level. We looked up to men's leagues, Premier League, La Liga and Euros. But I feel because it was telecast, we understood the level at which it is played and we understood where we stand as a team and the areas where we need to work upon."
In the coming three to four years, you will see (Indian) women's team as a big powerhouse in Asia. Our goal is to be the best team in Asia. Playing the World Cup is a far-fetched goal at the moment. As a team, we need to grow a lot. We will be focussing to be among the top teams in Asia."
And while setting a target, Dalima is quite practical in how the target will be achieved. "It all boils down to exposure we get. I would not mind playing in an international club. I would love that. Abroad I would get a lot of exposure. It is very important to play with or against such players."
'Important to have tournaments like Subroto Cup'
It was in the Subroto Cup that the enormous talent of Dalima was spotted and her progress to the national team began. With the women's football growing in India, Dalima feels that tournaments like Subroto Cup become hugely important. This year the tournament is set to kick off on 20 August and will see the participation of 112 teams. She said, "With an emphasis on the growth of Indian football which is on the rise and The U-17 Women's World Cup scheduled next year, it is very important for us to have tournaments attracting the youth. It's these platforms which are breeding ground for future stars."
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