Manisha Kalyan was up against multiple odds long before she sold a feint to her marker and fired a left footer into the bottom corner of Brazilian net in India’s first match of the four-nation tournament in faraway Manaus. The Indian women’s football team scored once and kept mighty Brazil at bay till late in the first half but eventually lost 1-6.
Winger Manisha equalised in the eighth minute for India after Debora Oliveira had put the 2007 World Cup runners-up in the lead in the very first minute of the match at the Arena da Amazonia. “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 was later seen getting clicked with Brazil’s legendary midfielder Formiga Mota, who was felicitated by all parties present after the game, as she hung up her boots.
Needless to say, it was a big deal for the Indian scorer. “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, Manisha’s journey too had its share of challenges right from her early days, in the small village of Muggowal in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district. “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,” Manisha recalled.
While not everyone from her village supported Manisha’s decision to take up the game, the player 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 game me all the support I needed,” she said.
The first time Manisha came into the national team fold was ahead of the BRICS U-17 Women’s Football Cup in South Africa, and since then, the powerful attacker has not looked back. “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. Giovana Costa put Brazil in the lead again in the 36th minute to give the home side the advantage at the breather.
Brazil, however, pumped in four more goals in the second half through Ariadina Borges (52nd and 81st), Kerolin Ferraz (54th) and Geyse Ferreira (76th) to win the match with a tennis-like scoreline.