Playing professional football with India women’s national football team, the experience for Dalima Chhibber, has been “tough but great”. The 22-year-old, recognised as the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament at the 2019 SAFF Women’s Championship, recently received Football Delhi’s 1st-ever Best Footballer of the Year Award. But when she started to learn the game, 12 years ago, there were hardly any women players. “Now, every girl wants to play the game.

I have seen its transition from nothing to something. Being able to play football for so many years has been a privilege and a great learning experience. I am what I am today is because of the sport,” says Chhibber, who made her international debut at the 2016 South Asian Games against Maldives. 
At present, she’s pursuing a Master’s in Sports Psychology from University of Manitoba, Canada, where she also plays professional football. Excerpts:
Most Indian parents want their kids to pursue academic careers. What was your situation?

We cannot deny the importance of studies in life. As a kid, I was taught the importance of managing studies and play equally, which taught me to multitask and manage time better. While captaining the U-19 national team in Class 12, I secured 92.27 per cent in the board exams.My parents have been a great help. They divided the work between themselves. My father looked after my game (he is my coach) and my mother helped  me with studies. 

When did you decide to play football professionally? How did your parents’ react? 

It was when I played for the national team for the first time. I was 13, and had got selected for the U-14 national team.Considering both my parents have been track and field players, they were happy with my decision. The fact is, I started my career playing professional football. But at that time, football was not well-known as a sport among girls. Choosing football has had its share of struggles.

Who inspires you?
My parents, who have always worked very hard to give me what I want in life and have encouraged me to keep working hard.

What is that ‘special’ requirement to achieve success?
One must be dedicated and determined to achieve success, fulfil dreams and goals because the road is tough. You are likely to get knocked down several times but you need to get up to be ready for the next opportunity. The key is to believe in yourself, keep persevering and setting your priorities right.
Is the promotion for girls’ football in our country good enough?
Nowadays it is. The game has come up a lot. In schools, even if there is no boys team, you find girls team. Now girls look forward to playing the game professionally. 
But it’s not as prominent as men’s football…
That’s because men’s football began much earlier than women’s. But women’s football is fast catching up. 
How did you get associated with Steadfast Nutrition?
Steadfast Nutrition contacted me for a product trial. I was convinced with the  quality of the products and liked their concept of sachet packing. It is convenient to carry these to my on-field practices and football matches abroad. 
Any message for girls who want to take up the sport as a profession?
Fight for what you want, work hard and believe in yourself.