West Ham United goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan became the first Indian to be awarded the Asian Woman Footballer of the Year award in the United Kingdom, months after the English club signed her in August.
The ceremony was held at Wembley Stadium, London on Friday.
“It’s a huge honour for me and I’d like to thank the Asian Football Awards for considering me for this award,” Chauhan was quoted as saying by the West Ham United website.
Chauhan’s beat India-born Tanvie Hans and Monica Sharma of Fulham Foundation FC, and London Bari LFC captain Sabah Mahmoud to win the prestigious award.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper from New Delhi was the first Indian footballer from the women’s national team to play competitively in England, signed pre-season by the London club in August 2015 for one year from Loughborough University in Leicestershire where she completed an MSc in sports management.
“It’s a step up for me (after playing for Loughborough). To play with better players in a better league will help me improve,” Chauhan said on the West Ham Ladies’ official YouTube channel.
Chauhan is, however, not the first woman of Indian origin to have played for an English club. Delhi-born Hans, a midfielder, earlier played for the Tottenham Hotspur reserve team before joining Fulham Foundation FC.
Chauhan has often expressed hope of influencing women footballers in India, which does not have a women’s league to boast of.
“It’s great that I’m in a position where I can inspire young talent and young girls to consider football as a career in the future,” Chauhan said.
Chauhan’s achievement, though a cause for celebration, is also a reflection on the state of affairs of women’s football in India. There is no top-tier league and the idea of a Women’s Super League — floated by the promoters of the Indian Super League — has remained just that.
And this is despite the women’s team enjoying a better world ranking (55) than the men’s (156).