Sandhiya ready to take Myanmar head-on in their own den

NEW DELHI: A star was born on the night of April 9, 2019, at the Mandalar Thriti Stadium in Mandalay, Myanmar.

Striker Sandhiya Ranganathan was a bright young talent, but was still considered a greenhorn in the international arena. But on April 9, in the high-pressure Olympic qualifier against Myanmar, Sandhiya proved beyond doubt that she was ready for big occasions, and more importantly, she was here to stay.

As the Indian Senior National Women’s Team drew 3-3 against Myanmar in a tooth-and-nail battle, Sandhiya dazzled on the pitch by scoring the opening goal for India in the ninth minute before providing a perfect assist to Sanju for the second goal.

Fast forward to the present, at 26, Sandhiya Ranganathan is now a seasoned campaigner and a respected figure in the National Team. With 40 international matches and 10 goals under her belt, the Blue Tigresses forward is widely admired for her dedication and unwavering commitment.  

Presently in the National camp at the National Centre for Excellence in Kolkata, Sandhiya is preparing keenly for a renewed rivalry against Myanmar as India are set to travel to the neighbouring nation for a two-match friendly tour in Yangon on July 9 and 12. They will also participate in the upcoming SAFF Women’s Championship in October 2024.  

Speaking to www.the-aiff.com from the National camp, Sandhiya chose to walk down the memory lane.    

“My first experience of playing against Myanmar was in 2019. We played the Olympic qualifiers against them. At that time, I was one of the juniors in the Indian squad. The team was packed with seniors, but I made the first eleven. No doubt it was a memorable outing for me,” Sandhiya said.

Asked about the memories from the last match she said, “That match remains etched in my memory. I started with a bang, scoring the first goal. The second goal was also the result of an assist from me. It wasn’t easy then. I was a junior player, not too comfortable with the seniors. I was afraid the seniors would reprimand me if I committed a mistake on the pitch.

“But on the contrary, I received the full support of my seniors. They motivated me and even complimented me for my on-pitch performance. The match ended in a 3-3 draw. It was a great experience overall. But then, things are different now,” she said.

After representing India in age-group competitions, Sandhiya made her debut for the Senior National Team at the 2018 COTIF Cup in Spain. “I have represented the National Team for a few years now, so I am no longer a junior player. I am not trying to say that it brings extra pressure, since I always play with a free mind. But I do carry some extra responsibility on my shoulders. I am ready to take it up with my all-encompassing efforts,” she said. 

“The camp here in Kolkata is going really well in all aspects; whether it is strength and conditioning or the diet part, everything is perfect and smooth here. We are like a family in this camp, it’s certainly going to help us a lot on the eve of the tour of Myanmar and the SAFF tournament in October.

“All of us are working hard in the camp; we are eagerly looking forward to the tour and ready to take up the Myanmar challenge,” the midfielder said. 

The Indian Senior National team has played five matches this year, including the Turkish Women’s Cup in February followed by two friendly matches against Uzbekistan this month. They finished runners-up in the Turkey tournament and lost one and drew the other against Uzbekistan.

Sandhiya said, “The two friendly matches against Uzbekistan were a huge learning experience. It happened immediately after the IWL and since there wasn’t much gap in between, it proved even better.”

“A few of the senior players were not there during the Uzbekistan tour and while we missed them, it also turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed the team management to play some junior players. It was a good opportunity to see how they were shaping up at the international level,” she added. 

“There is no doubt that a lot is happening in women’s football in India and serious efforts are being made to take it to the next level. Previously, we didn’t use all the FIFA Windows. But now it has changed for good. Two back-to-back FIFA Windows have been used – after Uzbekistan, we are now going to Myanmar. It is a positive development. I feel extremely benefited personally too. International exposure against quality opposition has helped me improve my game. I am sure the same logic goes with my teammates too, and in the end, it does help the entire team,” Sandhiya concluded. 

Also Read: 133rd Indian Oil Durand Cup to kick-off on July 27, four cities to host the season opener of Indian football

Also Read: Conscient Sports partners with Real Madrid Foundation to ignite a new era in Indian Football

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