Bala Devi unlikely for Asian Cup, says coach Thomas Dennerby

  • Surgery for ACL injury could rule out India striker for next year’s competition.
Bala Devi's ACL injury could shut her chances of playing the Asian Cup. (AIFF)
Bala Devi's ACL injury could shut her chances of playing the Asian Cup. (AIFF)
Updated on Sep 11, 2021 03:50 PM IST
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ByDhiman Sarkar, Kolkata

India striker Bala Devi, the country’s biggest name in women’s football who has worn the No 10 shirt for Scotland’s Rangers FC, is likely to miss the 2022 Asian Cup due to injury. Devi, 31, has had surgery for an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury this month and India coach Thomas Dennerby said she would take around two months to recover. “For her it will be really tough to be ready for the Asian Cup,” said Dennerby at a virtual interaction on Saturday. 

Last December, Devi became the first Indian woman to score in Europe when she found the target against Motherwell. In an 11-year international career, Devi has 42 goals in 47 games and been India captain. 

India will host the Asian Championship from January 20 to February 6 2022 and to that end, the national team probables have started a preparatory camp in Jamshedpur. “We assembled three weeks ago,” said Dennerby. The 62-year-old Swedish coach was appointed for the under-17 team for the World Cup in India last year. When that was cancelled due to Covid-19, he was given temporary charge of the senior team. 

Dennerby said that as hosts India have set a target of reaching the knockout stage of the 12-team competition. “It will require a huge effort but if we can reach the quarter-finals it will be a successful tournament,” he said. 

The biggest hurdle for that is organising quality games for the squad. “We should play not less than 10 games against different types of opponents. We would need to play teams little weaker than us, some equal to us and also opponents who are a little bit better. That will help us improve the speed of the game, our decision making and passing. Even if we prepare well with good endurance training and a lot of hard work, we would need to put all that into games,” said Dennerby, a former national coach of Sweden and Nigeria national women’s teams. 

With Covid-19 putting severe restrictions on travel, arranging for international friendlies is difficult, said Kushal Das, the general secretary of the All India Football Federation, over the phone from New Delhi. “The Fifa window opens tomorrow and we don’t have confirmation for a game,” said Dennerby. The national team department is talking to a lot of federations, said Das. Among them are organisers of a tournament in Serbia in November, he said. 

With the Indian Women’s League unlikely to be held for the second year in a row, the squad is in a bio-secure bubble where it has been putting in 11 training sessions a week, said the coach. “We can’t overload the girls because if we try too hard we can get injury setbacks,” said Dennerby. 

Dennerby said the under-17 probables will soon have a camp in Jharkhand and as part of a long-term plan so will the under-19 squad. “All three teams practicing together on a regular basis will help us have a good overview,” said Dennerby who will return to the under-17 team after the Asian Cup.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021