Indian women footballers aim to retain SAG Cup

Shillong, Feb 4 (IANS) The Indian women’s football team is aiming to retain its title at the 12th South Asian Games (SAG), captain Oinam Bembem Devi said on Thursday.

The Indian women’s football team, 56th in the rankings, will take on the Maldives on Friday at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here.

“We have been working hard for the last two weeks for the SAG. We are hopeful to retain the champions at the 12th South Asian Games,” Bembem said.

However, she said that her team is not taking the opponents lightly as Nepal, Bangladesh and even the Maldives have improved their performance.

“Our main aim is to win every match. Maldives have improved over the years and Nepal and Bangladesh are also the good teams to be competing with in this event,” Bembem said.

Echoing the Indian team captain, coach Sajid Yousuf Dar was confident that his team will win the first match and defend the title.

“We’re the defending champions so all eyes will be on us and expectations will naturally be high. Our team is looking to start off well with the Maldives and we’re hoping to get the best result against them,” he said.

“The team has been camping here (Shillong) for the last two weeks and have acclimatised with the cold weather in Shillong. Therefore, the girls are going to try their best to win every match for the country,” Dar added.

The Madives head coach Naoko Kawamoto admitted that the cold weather here could be a minus point for the team.

“Maldives is a warm country”, she said here on Thursday.

However, she said they would surely give a tough fight to the hosts.

“The Japan Football Association sent me to coach Maldives as there is a close connection between Japan and the Maldives. Our target is to win and try our best to perform well and win the match tomorrow against India,” the coach said.

Bangladesh, India and Nepal are strong teams but Kawamoto believes her team was ready for the game, she said.

“Our team has improved after Kawamoto took over as our head coach for the last two years. She has trained us physically and mentally. We are ready to take against the opponents in this competition,” Maldives captain Fadhuwa Zahir said.

Meanwhile, neighbours Bangladesh, who finished with a bronze medal last time, will be tough competitors. Coach Md. Golam Robbani Choton, who was present with Bangladesh’s captain Sabina Khatun, was optimistic that they would finish the tournament impressively.

The opening day of the women’s football tournament will see Bangladesh take on Nepal while Maldives play India. Both matches will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Sports Complex.

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