NEW DELHI: Oinam Bembem Devi, the flag bearer of Indian women’s football over the past two decades was on August 18 named the winner of the prestigious Arjuna Award. Bembem becomes the second Indian woman footballer to win the award, the first being Shanti Mullick in 1983.
Bembem, nicknamed the ‘Durga of Indian Football,’ who had made her international debut in 1995, bowed out on a high after winning the SAF Games Gold Medal in Shillong in February 2015.
She has hence been closely associated with All India Football Federation (AIFF) in spreading awareness about women’s football in India and actively involved as a scout and brand ambassador for FIFA Live Your Goals, India.
Speaking about her achievement, Bembem said that she expects the award will “motivate millions of girls to take up football.”
“This is an award for Indian women’s football,” she stated. “I hope this award will help remove the mental block and inspire all girls in the society to take up the sport,” she added. “It gives me immense satisfaction to see my name in the same list with the greatest Indian sportspersons across all fields. My sacrifice over the past two decades has not gone waste.”
“I need to thank all teammates, my coaches, AIFF and the entire football fraternity along with my family for their support.”
AIFF president Praful Patel congratulated Bembem on her achievement.
“Bembem has been an inspiration to all women in the country. Her contribution to Indian women’s football has been exceptional. She deserves the award. Congratulations,” he said in his message.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das mentioned that Bembem has been a “role model for so many youngsters.”
“She has played for India for over two decades and has been a top performer. She is a role model for all budding women footballers. Congratulations,” Das stated.
Women’s head coach Maymol Rocky couldn’t hide her delight over the phone. “No one deserves the Arjuna Award more than Bembem. She has done so much for Indian football both on and off the field. I am very happy for her. Congratulations,” she said
She is the 25th footballer to have won the award, the last being Subrata Paul in 2016. In addition, she was also awarded the AIFF woman footballer award twice, in 2001 and 2013.