Her story reminds you of the British comedy-drama Bend It Like Beckham. Just like the protagonist Jess (in the film) was spotted by a football coach of a women’s team of the local club, Aditi Chauhan too was asked by her school coach to participate in trials for the Delhi under-19 team.
“I said yes and that’s how my football journey began. I really enjoyed playing the sport and the more I trained and played football, the more I fell in love with it. At the age of 17, I got selected for the under-19 national team camp and was away from home for almost three months for the first time. But I did not let it get to me because my aim was very clear – to be the first-choice goalkeeper for the team. I trained hard and achieved it. I represented the under-19 Indian national women’s team for AFC Qualifiers at Malaysia,” recalls Chauhan.
Currently the goalkeeper of the senior national women’s team, she chose to be a goalkeeper in football because of her basketball skills that helped her get a good grip and strong arms. “I really enjoyed playing football and after practising goalkeeping, I realised that I was only getting better at it. Soon enough, I became the first-choice keeper for the national team,” she says.
Being active in sports from the beginning gave her an athletic body but she continued to work hard to improve her fitness, reflexes and agility. “I would train six days a week for at least two to three hours a day, but during and before the national camp, the intensity and duration would increase,” she adds.
After being selected for the under-19 national team, Chauhan did not look back. Though her parents were apprehensive about her career choice, she found support in her grandmother who encouraged her to pursue the sport at the highest level and even accompanied her to the training sessions.
“My family always made sure that I maintained a balance between my studies and sports. I made it to the senior national team in the 11th grade and since then I’ve maintained my spot in the team. But I’ve never taken it for granted and have worked harder than before to improve my performance. From my journey I have learnt that it takes a lot of dedication and sincerity to achieve something at the highest level,” says Chauhan, who is pursuing MSc in sports management at Loughborough University, UK, and also plays for the university team there.
Elaborating on the best things she has learnt at work, Chauhan says that football being a team sport has taught her the importance of working as a team to achieve positive results. “The challenges that I faced were my injuries. They would often make me very frustrated and angry but my sports psychologist, family and friends helped me deal with them,” she adds.
Chauhan also has had a hands-on experience in sports management following her internship with the All India Football Federation and Liber Sports, a Delhi-based football management firm.
She is thrilled to represent the country at an international platform and competing with world-class players. “The feeling cannot be described clearly in words... It’s a mixture of satisfaction, honour, pride, responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment. The women’s team is better ranked than the men’s national team which is a great feeling. Goalkeepers are said to be attackers first and then defenders, which puts a lot responsibility on us. We have to be extremely alert and on our toes all the time during a match because we come into action during the most crucial moments in a match,” says Chauhan whose favourite goalkeeper is Manuel Neuer.
She also “just loves” Lionel Messi’s game.
Profession: Goalkeeper, Indian women’s national football team
Day begins at: 9am
Day ends at: 11pm
Work hours: Not definite
Social responsibilities: Wants to pursue a career in sports management along with football
Family: Family has been her greatest support. They have helped her throughout her career
Vacations: Loves travelling in Europe
When not at work: Likes to play a recreational sport
Getting to know you
Footballer Aditi Chauhan believes that it’s important for all the girls who love football to just keep working hard and continue playing. It’s not possible for all the girls to represent the country but just play for the joy that comes with it, she says. “Girls who aim to play at an international level should make sure that they do not give up education completely because even after a successful career in the sport, they can be involved with it as coach, manager, administrator, sports psychologist, physiotherapist etc. I had to cut down on the level of socialising with friends to concentrate more on the game,” she says.