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Sharmili Mallick

Bhubaneswar: As the Hero Gold Cup tournament kicked off today at the Kalinga Stadium here, the Indian Women's National football team which has qualified for the Round 2 of Tokyo Olympic Qualifiers was fully charged up and seemed confident to face the opponents.

Backed by the home crowd at Kalinga, team India will try to take every advantage possible in all the matches.

In an exclusive interview to OTV, captain of the Indian side Aditi Chauhan who is in Bhubaneswar for the Hero Gold Cup tournament spoke about the team's preparation and prospective ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Qualification Round 2.

Excerpts from the interview

How will Hero Gold Cup tournament be helpful for team India in preparation for Round 2 of Tokyo Olympic Qualifiers?

The matches during the Hero Gold Cup tournament will help us a lot. All the teams participating in the tournament have qualified for the Round 2 of Olympic qualifiers. Myanmar, Iran, Nepal and we were in the same poll and all the four teams have qualified. Each match will be a tough fight for us as all the teams hold good rankings.

Besides, we won all four friendly matches that we recently played in Hongkong and Indonesia. So, it will be good preparations for the upcoming South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) and Round 2 of Olympic qualifiers.

How is the preparation of the team?

We started the year in a positive note by winning four friendlies, two each in Hongkong and Indonesia and we have come with the same momentum to play the tournament in Bhubaneswar. We are all very much focussed and know our targets. Besides, as an athlete playing in front of the home crowd for the first time in India and that too in a beautiful State like Odisha, it is a privilege as well as an advantage for us. We are very hopeful that we will get a good result. I will also thank Odisha Government for hosting the tournament here which is also the first in the country.

What do you feel about Odia players’ contribution to football and the lone player Jabamani Tudu’s role in the team?

I have been playing in the national team since last 10 years and seen many talented players from Odisha who have contributed a lot in the national football team. It was my privilege to play with those players from Odisha.

As far as Jabamani is concerned, she had played extremely well in the friendly matches. Though she is young, she is making vital contribution and plays an important role in the team.

What India should do to qualify for Olympics and World Cup?

It is a long process as other countries have been playing the game since a long time. However, we are moving in the right direction and efforts are being put in by Indian Government, All India Football Federation (AIFF) and other federations to encourage football in the country. All these efforts are making a big impact and that is why we can see the results also.

As a senior player, when do you see Indian side playing Olympics and World Cup?

Soon, I feel. In the coming ten years, either the men or women’s team will qualify for Olympics and World Cup.

The ongoing Hero Gold Cup tournament will see women’s national teams from India, Iran, Myanmar and Nepal lock horns with each other. The final face-off between the two top teams will be held on February 15.

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