The experience gained from undertaking tournament-cum-exposure trips to places like Brazil and Sweden could stand the Indian team in good stead when it competes in the upcoming AFC Women’s Asian Cup, feels wing back Dalima Chhibber.
The continental tournament is scheduled to be held in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune from January 20 to February 6, and the host nation is preparing in earnest under the guidance of head coach Thomas Dennerby.
“A lot has changed, especially the number of exposure matches that we have been playing in Brazil, Sweden, Turkey and so on. Brazil was a big learning curve for us, to see the hub of football culture and to understand what football really means to everyone there,” Chhibber told AIFF TV.
She said Dennerby, who had coached in his native Sweden and Nigeria before taking over the Indian senior team last August, has helped develop mental toughness among the players.
“The coach has given us a lot of confidence. He gives us a pep talk before every game, and he tells us how we are all capable, and how much he and the staff believe in us all. For me, personally, that gives a lot of confidence to fight it out,” she said.
“He has brought in a mental toughness in the squad — whether it’s chanting, whether it’s running, whether it’s conditioning, whether it’s speed, whether it’s the technical aspect, or it’s a tactical aspect.
“We’ve been able to focus on every part of the game in detail. We’ve been able to highlight that we’ve been able to improve. We’ve been able to come together as a team, and improve our games building up to the Asian Cup.”
The Indian team will look to put up a fine show in the continental tournament and secure a historic berth at the 2023 FIFA World Cup.
“The dream for us is to reach the FIFA World Cup. So when we went to Brazil to play against Brazil, it was a dream come true. But like going to Brazil playing against those teams was the start of a dream because we know where we have to be,” she stated.
“That was just like a stepping stone. We realised what world football is like, and what kind of football the teams that are at the top level who play in the World Cup and Olympics play. So for us it was a very big learning curve.”