[Nepal], Mar 15 (ANI): Manisha, the youngest player in India’s 20-member contingent at the SAFF Women's Championship 2019, is being touted as the ‘one to look out for’ after making her top-level debut against Hong Kong in January this year.
The lanky 17-year-old forward from Hoshiarpur in Punjab has already overcome numerous odds, both on and off the pitch, thus, making her journey to the senior team an inspirational one.
"I have been playing football since 13," she informed AIFF in a candid chat. "In school, I started out with athletics but one day, my coach Brahmji-sir asked me to try my hand at football. I enjoyed the teamwork involved in the sport, and fell in love instantly,” she said.
But there were obstacles too. While her parents were always by her side, Manisha reveals that the people in her village often disapproved of her taking up the sport.
"My family supported me from the beginning but other people around us were critical and wanted me to stop playing. A girl playing football was just not acceptable,” she stated.
Moreover, her love and determination were not all roses. "I was playing in a state tournament from where selections for the nationals were being done but my name wasn't on the final list. I was devastated,” she said.
The moment finally came in July last year, when she was named in the Indian U-17 team that participated in the BRICS Football Cup in South Africa. "We got the chance to play against top teams such as Brazil, and Russia," said Manisha, who even found the net against China.
Later in October, she played a crucial role in the Indian team's memorable victory against Thailand in the AFC U-19 qualifiers, providing an assist for the match-winner after a powerful solo run.
Head Coach Maymol Rocky summoned her to the National Team camp, and the very next month, she represented the senior team in Hong Kong. The journey from Hoshiarpur to Hong Kong got completed.
“Being selected to play for India was an unbelievable experience,” she said.
Manisha was handed her first-ever start against Myanmar at the Hero Gold Cup in February, which she refers to as the most memorable moment of her life.
"We were playing on home turf, and I started in playing XI. It was an incredible feeling. I was proud and nervous at the same time. I struggled to hold back my tears while singing the National Anthem,” she said.
Blessed with power and pace, she has already made heads turn with her performances at age-group level for India and has been climbing up the ranks at a rapid pace.
At nearly six feet tall, Manisha literally stands out on the field. Her height and well-built physique give her coach some valuable options upfront.
"It's amazing,” said Maymol. “Her quality, that too at just 17 is amazing. She has the speed, the strength and the finishing. She has all the attributes to be the perfect No. 9,” the coach declared. (ANI)