The language of football helps me at Dinamo, says Indian winger Soumya Guguloth

BISHKEK, KYRGYZ REPUBLIC: On the day Soumya Guguloth joined the Indian Women’s National Team in Bishkek here, a palpable excitement spread through the entire coaching staff. The youngster’s explosiveness on the wing had been missed in the team’s fireflies against Jordan and Uzbekistan and the results had showed the same.

Coach Thomas Dennerby’s first question to her in the huddle was whether she had been winning games in the league. Soumya shyly answered in the affirmative.

Since joining Dinamo Zagreb – one of multiple Indian women who have forayed overseas over the last year – the winger has not just caught eyeballs but also seen changes in her own game. And her attitude towards life itself.

“It was very difficult in the first few months,” she says. “The food wasn’t to my taste, the weather was totally unfamiliar… I didn’t know the language. It was all very uncomfortable too soon.”

Gradually she settled into a pattern. It became crucial to her that she secure off field peace before finding success on it.

First, she started cooking her own food, and for a youngster from Nizamabad this meant frequent calls home to not just get her mother’s recipes but also find substitutes for the things she could not get in the local markets.

On the pitch she found herself physically weaker than her teammates and opponents and so very soon she was putting more hours in the gym. She focused not just on building up strength but ensuring that her speed helped negate everything else.

“Despite the language gap,” she says, “what binds us is football. It is the common language really.”

The changes were visible on the pitch on Tuesday as she helped power the Blue Tigresses to a 5-0 victory over hosts Kyrgyz Republic in the first game of the AFC Olympic Qualifier Round 1.

Playing on the right of an attacking trio, Soumya scored a goal and got an assist, both arguably the best of the lot. Her goal, volleyed in first time from inside the box was a thing of beauty in itself, but so hard that it risked taking the roof of the net off.

“It was great to score a goal and also help Anju Di get her second of the game,” she says. “My aim was to work hard and ensure that we got a positive result. The clean sheet was also something very satisfying.”

Even in that clean sheet, Soumya’s work rate shone through. Part of a super quick right side of defence — Soumya plays in front of the experienced Dalima Chhibber — her constant tracking back meant the Kyrgyz team were reduced to feeding on scraps on that side of the field.

Despite a strong lead after the opener, there is a desire still boiling within the team and Soumya is keen to highlight that there is no thought of complacency at all.

This ambition extends to her personal goals too. Despite playing regularly in her club side — Soumya in fact scored her first goal for Dinamo on March 5, in the Croatian Women’s Cup against ZNK Koprivnica — she knows there’s a long way for her ahead. And a lot more to do.

“I have to get better physically,” she says. “And not at the cost of my ball skills and speed. I also know that technically I have a lot to improve. It’s basically what I spend my time on outside of the training pitch when I’m at home in Zagreb.”

For now, the focus remains on the second game against Kyrgyz Republic on April 7, and then she will return to Croatia to finish the last legs of the season. “It would be good to secure the Round 2 passage and go back on club duty,” she says. “It will be like taking back a piece of home to tide me over for some time.”

Also Read: Indian clubs can be competitive in the continental circuit, feels Rahul Bheke

Also Read: Proud to represent Indian Football in AFC Champions League again, says Mumbai City coach Des Buckingham

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