Manisha Kalyan achieved the unthinkable on Friday when she scored the Indian women’s football team’s lone goal in the 6-1 loss to mighty Brazil in a friendly game in Manaus.
Manisha received the ball from Pyari Xaxa in midfield and made a surging run, before slotting the ball past Brazil ‘keeper Leticia. It was the first time an Indian footballer had scored against a senior Brazil team.
“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, posed 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. 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,” added Manisha.
Manisha’s footballing journey has been one of struggle, right from her early days in a small village called Muggowal.
“I’ve been playing since I was 13, when I switched over from athletics to football after my coach Brahmji-sir asked me to change sports. The teamwork involved in football was really interesting to me, and I fell in love with this game,” she said.
Brazil Women thrash India 6-1 in Formiga’s international farewell
While not everyone from her village supported Manisha’s decision to take up the beautiful game, the forward had her parents’ backing. “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 game me all the support I needed,” she said.
The first time Manisha came into the National Team fold was in ahead of the 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 a very important learning for us, heading into the AFC Asian Cup,” said Manisha.