The 19-year-old Manisha Kalyan, a winger for the Senior Women’s National Team, became the first Indian to score a goal against any Senior National Brazil side. India went down 1-6 to Brazil in the opening game of the Women’s International football tournament on Friday, but Manisha who scored the first goal for the team in the eighth minute registered her name in the records book.
Manisha, upon receiving a cushioned header from fellow forward Pyari Xaxa close to the halfway line, fired a left-footer into the bottom corner of Brazil’s goal post. However, it was the only moment that India could cherish for a long time.
“It was a dream come true for me to play against Brazil and to score against them was the icing on the cake,” said Manisha, who, after the match, was seen posing for pictures with Brazil’s legendary midfielder Formiga Mota, who was felicitated by all parties present at the Arena da Amazonia after the game, as she hung up her boots.
“To be on the same pitch as her (Formiga) was a big deal. I hope we can learn from this experience and do better in the next game,” added Manisha.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult against a team of Brazil’s quality. But as soon as we stepped onto the field, we forgot about the pressure. That is what we need to do in the upcoming matches and play with an open mind.”
Like many female footballers from across the world, however, Manisha’s journey has been one of struggle, right from her early days in a small village called Muggowal, Manisha was up against the odds.
“I’ve been playing since I was 13, when I switched over from athletics to football after my coach Brahmji-sir asked me to do. The teamwork involved in football was really interesting to me, and I fell in love with this game,” Manisha recalled.
While not everyone from her village sup’orted Manisha’s decision to take up the beautiful game, the pacey forward had the full support of her parents.
“Many in my village did not want me to keep playing. A girl playing football was just not acceptable to them. But my parents stuck right by my side and gave me all the support I needed,” she informed.
The first time Manisha came into the National Team was ahead of th’ BRICS U-17 Women’s Football Cup in South Africa, and the powerful attacker has never looked back from there.
“Yes, we had played Brazil in that tournament too, but that was a different kind of a game. Most of us were new to that level of football. But tonight’s match was a memorable one for us. Yes, we conceded a few goals in the end, but we held our own for most parts of the match, and that is very important learning for us, heading into the AFC Asian Cup,” said Manisha.