City player Soumiya Ravi has been named captain of the India under-16 team for the Women's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifiers, starting in Sri Lanka from November 5.
Keeping her company will be another city player Anika.
Both the girls got a place in the 22-member squad after a two-month-long camp at SAI centre in Gandhinagar.
This is the second AFC tournament for Soumiya, who had earlier played the 2010 edition held in Jordan. Anika will make her international debut through the event.
According to Soumiya, leading the team will be a bit challenging. "This time, I will have to focus more on my own performance so as to lead the squad by example. However, I do not feel any sort of pressure. I only feel honoured that I have got yet another chance to play for the country," said the 15-year-old midfielder, who studies in Class 10 of Sacred Heart School, Sector 26.
The skipper said she was hopeful of a good show in the qualifiers, where the team will compete with Iran, Uzbekistan and hosts Sri Lanka for a berth in the final round of AFC.
"Our team is strong and will take on any challenge. During the camp, we competed with many local boys' under-16 and mixed age group teams. We have prepared well and I hope we will cruise through the qualifiers."
Her classmate Anika, who plays as a defender, is having butterflies in her stomach. "As this is my first international tournament, I am a bit nervous. But more than that I am happy to represent the country and will give my best for the team's success."
Both Soumiya and Anika practise at Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) in the Sector-42 Sports Complex. Their selection to the camp has left CFA head coach Harjinder Singh proud. "These girls have been practising here for the past two years and their skills have improved a lot during this period. Selection to the national team is something they owe to their hard work," he said.
Besides, the coach also voiced the need to set up a girls' football academy in the city. "While Chandigarh has from time to time produced many promising male players, we have no dearth of talented female footballers. The present time is right to give them a proper platform for polishing their skills. For this, the UT sports department and the Chandigarh Football Association should take some proactive steps, such as setting up a girls' football academy. That way, they can compete shoulder-to-shoulder with the boys and keep bringing laurels to the city," he added.